Moral Bankruptcy

By Dr. Thomas Sowell

November 19, 2018 5 min read

People who follow politics, even casually, learn not to expect high moral standards from politicians. But there are some outrages that show a new low, even for politicians.

Among the consequences of Democrats' recent election victories, especially at the state and local levels, is the election of officials who have publicly announced their opposition to charter schools, and their determination to restrict or roll back the growth of those schools.

What have the charter schools done to provoke such opposition?

Often located in low-income, minority neighborhoods, these schools have in many cases produced educational outcomes far better than the traditional public schools in such neighborhoods.

A Success Academy charter elementary school in Harlem had a higher proportion of the children in one of its classes pass the statewide math exam than in any other class at the same grade level, anywhere in the state of New York.

As a result of the charter schools' educational achievements, it is not uncommon for thousands of children to be on waiting lists to get into such schools — in New York City, tens of thousands.

This represents a huge opportunity for many low-income, minority youngsters who have very few other opportunities for a better life. But, to politicians dependent on teachers' unions for money and votes, charter schools are expendable.

In various communities around the country, charter schools are already being prevented from moving into empty school buildings, which would allow them to admit more children from waiting lists.

Denying these children what can be their one chance in life is a new low, even for politicians.

Political rhetoric can camouflage what is happening. But the arguments against charter schools are so phony that anyone with a decent education should be able to see right through them. Unfortunately, the very failure of many traditional public schools to provide a decent education enables their defenders to get away with arguments that could not survive any serious analysis.

Consider the incessantly repeated argument that charter schools are "taking money away from the public schools." Charter schools are themselves public schools, educating children who have a legal right to be educated with taxpayer money set aside for that purpose. When some fraction of children move from traditional public schools to charter schools, why should the same fraction of money not move with them?

What is the money for, if not to educate children? The amount of taxpayer money spent per child in charter schools is seldom, if ever, greater than the amount spent per child in traditional public schools. Often it is less.

Another argument used in attacking charter schools is that, despite particular charter schools with outstanding results, by and large charter school students' results on educational tests are no better than the results in traditional public schools. Even if we accept this claim, it leaves out one crucial fact.

White students and Asian students together constitute a majority of the students in traditional public schools. Black students and Hispanic students together constitute a majority of the students in charter schools.

On virtually all educational tests, black and Hispanic students score significantly lower than white and Asian students. If charter schools as a whole just produce educational results comparable to those in traditional public schools as a whole, that is a big improvement.

If you want to make a comparison of educational results with comparable students, you can look at results among children living in the same neighborhood, at the same grade levels — and with both charter school children and children in a traditional school being educated in the very same building.

Such comparisons in New York City showed, almost every time, a majority of the students in the traditional public school scoring in the bottom half in both math and English, while the percentage of charter school students scoring in the top half was some multiple of the percentage of other students scoring that high.

This is what the teachers' unions and the politicians want to put a stop to. Who will speak up for those children?

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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