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Charter Schools: This Debate Is Far From Over


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Charter Schools: This Debate Is Far from Over

"For-profit schools" (Cover Story, Feb. 7) did an excellent job of describing the fundamental structural change that charter schools are bringing to the world of education. It described the rich diversity of schools that are achieving success in urban and suburban settings and the passion for educational excellence that parents, teachers, and administrators bring to these schools.

But the question isn't "Can private companies do a better job of educating America's kids?" any more than it was "Can Federal Express deliver packages better than the Post Office?" or "Can Japanese companies build better cars than American manufacturers?" The real question is whether a competitive model is more likely than a government monopoly to improve educational quality.

The promise of school choice is that private companies and others will invest in innovative educational programs and cost-effective management infrastructure to attract students, a.k.a. "customers." School boards will respond to that challenge in order to keep (or win back) those customers. Sort of like the real world.

Michael J. Connelly

Chief Executive

Mosaica Education Inc.

New York

By willfully excluding students who have the greatest needs, for-profit education has left out in the cold the children who need the most restructuring in services. As a school psychologist, I'm appalled by the lack of outrage at taxpayer-funded separatism outlawed decades ago. As an investor, I have shorted these stocks waiting for anti-discrimination lawsuits to send these companies to the grave. This educational fad will also pass.

Craig Varsa

Alexandria, Va.

When I see a for-profit school that teaches the same percentage of learning-impaired, bilingual, attention-deficit-disorder (ADD), and physically/medically handicapped students as the public schools; that offers the same athletic and other extracurricular experiences for all kids; that produces the same facilities without raiding public bond money; and that still manages to show significant gains in achievement, perhaps I'll find more merit to the arguments.

As a parent of middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, as well as being a 19-year veteran high school teacher, it infuriates me to see my tax dollars and school funding siphoned away from the kids who need it most. Most of the schools you featured do not provide services for those with learning disabilities, bilingual education, or support for kids with ADD. They also don't usually offer interscholastic athletic programs, free-lunch programs, or security guards. Why? Because they don't have to. So as taxpayer dollars leave the public schools, required by law to educate everyone, we are left with less and less as we deal with an increasing proportion of students who require more and more.

How about finding public schools that do work, highlight their attributes, and encourage corporations to put money into public schools willing to make these changes? We already know the formula that works: excellent and well-paid teachers, a curriculum with high expectations that addresses multiple learning styles, parent/community involvement, low class size, frequent feedback and communication on students, and a well-maintained facility with adequate technology.

It's pathetic that in the longest-lasting economic boom we've ever experienced in our country, public education should have to go begging for dollars to fund basic programs.

Jennifer Grant Prileson

Tucson

I was dismayed to find that you had not considered Nobel Learning Communities, the profitability leader in the school market. The achievement levels of our students are exceptional, with third-graders at fifth-grade levels, sixth-graders at ninth-grade levels, and eighth-graders at post-high school levels in reading. Also note that our "first" charter school was profitable, and we expect all to be. Our administrative costs average only 7% of tuitions, compared with much higher overhead numbers of our competitors. Making a profit while producing students whose achievement levels are above national norms is not a futuristic theory but a reality today at Nobel.

A. "Jack" Clegg

Chief Executive

Nobel Learning Communities Inc.

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