Charter SchoolsCommentary by Pete du Pont
October 19, 1996
Host intro: Charter schools -- independent public schools freed from bureaucratic regulations -- are under attack from the educational establishment. Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis says you can often know something best by studying its enemies.
Charter schools get the same dollar-per-pupil money from the state that other public schools get. Then, they go their own way under independent management: hire their own teachers, set their own curricula, and answer -- directly -- to parents for their "product" -- education. Over 400 are open this year.
They're driving the education establishment nuts.
Why? Because they're judged by how well they educate, not how well they follow bureaucratic dicta, snuggle up to teachers' unions, and foster "self-esteem" at the expense of reading and writing.
I find liberal opposition to charter schools especially cynical. Charters don't siphon kids away from swank private schools: nationally, student bodies are over three-fifths minority, over half poor, a fifth disabled, and for many students English is a second language. They're in charters because they -- or at least their parents -- have seen what the public schools offer and they want more.
But to hear educrats and teachers' unions tell it, charter schools aren't characterized by freedom and innovation, they're rogue experiments designed to subvert public education. Looking around at much of public education over the last generation, a little subversion is a good thing.
Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA, we know ideas -- and charter schools -- can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Host outro: Tomorrow, Pete du Pont passes out a few Christmas gifts.