Giving Away Our Schools

September 2, 2007

The government’s program of replacing our public schools with charter schools is rapidly accelerating.

About 400 more charter schools are set to open this fall. This is a 12% rise in the average number opened over the last 4 years and nearly twice the number opened in 2003. There are currently more than 4,000 charter schools enrolling about 1.1 million students across the country. These privately-run schools are paid for with funds out of the public treasury and are usually operated for-profit. More money for charter schools means less money for already overcrowded and run-down public schools.

Indeed, thousands of underfunded public schools are being branded as “underperforming” and put on track for “restructuring” i.e., closed and reopened as charter schools. For example, the New York state department of education is planning to close 70 public schools in 2008 with the stated purpose of reopening them as charter schools. This past spring, the state government lifted the cap on charter schools, raising it to 200. At least 8 new charter schools will open in New York this fall bringing the total number of charter schools in the state to 105.

The same story is playing out across the country. In more than a dozen cities, including Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee, charter schools now serve at least 1 in 6 students. In Dayton, Ohio more than a quarter of all students attend charter schools, while in New Orleans 57% of students attend charters.

Facilitating this program to dismantle and privatize the public education system, the federal government is providing hundreds of millions of dollars to fund charter schools. In one instance, the government doled out $284 million in public funds to ten states. Among the states receiving this federal funding, California was handed over $100 million to subsidize existing charter schools and open new ones. The state plans to open another 50 charter schools this fall, bringing the state’s total number to 671.

Charter schools are leading to the destruction of the system of public education.
Charter schools drain vitally needed funds out of the public school treasuries. Through charters, the funds earmarked for public schools (some $536 billion/year) are being turned into sources of profit-making for capitalist entrepreneurs. The educational infrastructure, built up over hundreds of years and financed by taxpayers, is being given away— privatized.