It's no secret that some of us (though not all of us ) at Fordham* think that "religious charter schools" is an idea worth exploring. I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel about this very topic?? on Monday at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers conference, where, I must admit, I failed to convince the audience of my point of view. But an interesting twist came to light during the discussion: it turns out that some charter school authorizers--the quasi-public bodies that oversee these schools and are charged with holding them accountable--are themselves religious.

Exhibit A is the Minnesota Education Trust, the subject of a recent post by Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten .

"Minnesota Education Trust" sounds pretty generic, but the name seems to convey a clear sense of the organization's mission. Or does it?

MET's "principal goals" are set forth in its articles of incorporation, filed with the secretary of state in May 2007. The first goal listed is "to promote the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims and promote understanding between them." Other goals include building a virtuous society


The recent NCLB regulations focus on high school graduation rates. Mark Schneider (as in former Bushie and now at AIR Mark Schneider), however, wants to know??the stats on college graduation rates. And that's exactly what he set out to discover in his new paper, "The Costs of Failure Factories in American Higher Education."

His main conclusion? The ratio of federal grants aid to colleges and college students to actual diplomas is deplorably low. In fact, 408 four-year institutions graduate fewer than one-third of their students. And we thought a 70% high school graduation rate was bad. But the cost to taxpayers is even more astounding:

To assess the "cost" of these "failure factories" to society, Schneider calculates the amount of federal financial aid received by the 158,000 students who enrolled in a given year in the 408 institutions that graduated fewer than a third of their students. About 44 percent of those enrollees received federal grants averaging $2,405, and the average graduation rate at the institutions was 18 percent. He determines the total federal grants given to non-graduates from those institutions to be $120 million, and drops that figure to $90 million by assuming that 25

The Education Gadfly

(Left to right): Fordham staffers in costume: Alice takes a peek through the Looking Glass, Sleeping Beauty catches some Zs, Snow White hums to the birds, Concert Goer #1 chills and a Wake Forest track star stretches.

Following the national trend set by 10-year-olds, some women of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute are opting for modest and traditional Disney princess costumes this year and staying away from -- what shall we call them? -- decidedly more revealing outfits. An expected $5.8 million is to be spent on Halloween this year, up a half-billion dollars from 2007, and this money is being spent on more fabric and less-revealing costumes. As Erica Noonan of The Boston Globe points out, ???An era when Halloween costume shopping for girls could be confused with exploring a Victoria's secret lingerie trunk may be fading??? as more consumers opt for ???bumblebees, ladybugs and superheroes.??? We are all disappointed that Mike did not dress up as the Gadfly.


Guest Blogger

Fall Intern Molly Kennedy offers up this reading:

With 25,000 students enrolled in charter schools and an additional 21,000 on waiting lists, charter schools in Boston are putting the burn on public schools .?? As a result, public school officials are seeking a change in funding practices, arguing that the cost of sending their pupils to charter schools is a burden. Some say the districts should learn a lesson about competitiveness; others wonder why the public should be supporting students outside the regular public school system. School superintendents are supporting bills to be filed in January that are designed "to change the charter school funding formula and make it rely less heavily on regular school districts."?? Read more here .

The Education Gadfly

The National Education Association headquarters in Washington, D.C.

So says Jay Mathews in his Washington Post column today--at least when it comes to education policy.

If you like the education policies (JUST the education policies) of the current president, you will like the education policies of his successor, no matter which man is chosen. If you don't, you won't.

How can that be? Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) seem to be very different people, with contrasting views of President Bush. But if you examine carefully what they say they want to do about schools, it is just more of the same.

Mathews rightly points out that surrogates to the candidates chat about a lot of the same ideas, from charter schools to non-traditional routes to the classroom to accountability. And both candidates have been careful to avoid talk of ???scrapping??? No Child Left Behind. And he's not the first to notice that there's a ???Washington Consensus??? in education that's long-standing and hard...