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No, there’s not a ‘charter school bubble’ on the way

By   /   February 22, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

A recent article by four professors of education who compare the boom in charter school growth to the disastrous subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 is garnering national attention — and some dismissive critiques from charter school advocates.

Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, told Watchdog.org the scholars’ premise is flimsy.

“It’s disturbing to see this article by four college professors comparing charter public schools – a growing public school option for many parents across the country – to subprime mortgages,” said Rees. “The article offers no compelling reasoning or evidence for its claims. Moreover, it is offensive to parents who have chosen or are hoping to choose a charter school for their children.”

According to Karega Rausch, vice president of research and evaluation at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the authors misconstrue much of the information they present about the charter authorizing process.

“Unlike most mortgage originators, virtually all charter school authorizers are public officials. With the exception of a few private higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations (who collectively oversee less than 10 percent of all public charter schools across the country), virtually all authorizers are public employees,” he wrote on the NACSA website. … “And public officials have different motivations and risk tolerance, which make them poor comparisons to mortgage originators.”

WARNING: Government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in conservatorship since July 2008. Some economists worry another economic downtown would lead to a massive bailout of the pair. (AP photo)

Comparing charter school authorizers to government-backed mortage underwriters “is not a serious idea,” says Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The article, “Are We Heading Toward a Charter School ‘Bubble’?: Lessons from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis,” also misses the importance of parental control, according to Rees.

“It’s more important to understand why parental demand for charter schools is rising,” Rees said. “These reasons include: more learning days, innovative classroom teaching, flexibility in building a curriculum, smaller classrooms and better results.”

Greg Richmond, president and CEO of NACSA, has written that the authors of the article — Preston C. Green III of the University of Connecticut, Bruce D. Baker of Rutgers University, Joseph Oluwole of Montclair State University and Julie F. Mead of the University of Wisconsin — are questioning the ability of parents to make educational choices regarding their children.

“What is worth your time to contemplate is the belief that is at the core of the authors’ argument: African-American parents who enroll their children in charter schools do not understand what is best for their children and must be protected from themselves,” Richmond wrote. “This central philosophy of the paper is patronizing, at best, or racist, at worst. Repeatedly, the authors assert that African-American families are enrolling their children in charter schools because of a ‘herd mentality.’ Their words, not mine.”

Rees dismissed the comparison of charter schools to the subprime mortgage crisis.

“We strongly believe that only high-quality charter public schools should be authorized and allowed to operate,” said Rees. “However, the notion that too many parents lining up for charters could lead to a path of destruction like the housing market is not a serious idea.”

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Heather Kays, Watchdog’s senior education reporter, has more than 12 years experience as a reporter and editor covering mostly education and politics. She has written for the Herald News, The Record and the Staunton, Virginia Gannett newspaper the News Leader. Her work has been published by USA Today, the Associated Press and various other newspapers and websites. Kays has won numerous awards including: second place for First Amendment writing (while working with four other reporters) from the New Jersey Press Association; third place for the Robert P. Kelly Award for first-year reporting from the New Jersey Press Association; second place by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists for first-year reporting and Virginia School Board Association’s Media Honor Roll for the year. In 2008, she won a scholarship to attend the Neiman Narrative Conference at Harvard University. Heather can be reached at [email protected]