The charter school hype never ceases to bear bitter fruit. Take the state of Indiana. Nearly 23,000 students attend 62 tuition-free, public charter schools in Indiana. Under Indiana law, the mayor of Indianapolis can authorize charter schools and he has sponsored about 20. Another three are authorized by traditional public schools in Lafayette and Evansville, Indiana. Ball State University is another authorizer. Of the nearly 40 public charter schools authorized by Ball State University (BSU), the university has placed 23 percent on probation and required 10 percent to take corrective action. Another 10 percent either withdrew their charter or had it revoked by the university. The grand total of delinquent or questionable charters is thus 43%. Many of these schools include an emphasis on military-like discipline, tough love, character development and zero-tolerance policies.
Furthermore, three BSU-sponsored schools withdrew their charters after being unable to find facilities in which to operate. Nine are on probation for failing to make adequate yearly progress or for non-academic problems, such as attendance rate, not complying with special education and giving their non-profit status to another school out of state.
But if you ask Robert Marra, the interim director of the office of charter schools in the state of Indiana, these ghastly statistics are reported as ‘good news’. For Marra, the BSU charter school failures means:
“That our policy … is starting to come to fruition. It says the policy is working, that alternative schools that are not performing like they should — average or above average — may not remain open (Ball State holding charter schools accountable Seth Slabaugh, December 27, 2010, http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20101227/NEWS01/12270317/Ball-State-holding-charter-schools-accountable).
This is truly an Orwellian moment when charter school failure is reported as educational policy success and doublethink (the ability to hold in the mind two contradictory thoughts simultaneously and believe in them both) becomes the tongue of well-heeled public relations spin.
Lynn Black, head of schools for Hoosier Academies, which has a BSU-chartered school in Muncie, Indiana, has an even better spin on the obvious charter school failures. He suggests that public charter schools fail due to the fact they are held to much higher standards than traditional public schools. This is why, he argues, they might not be ‘doing so well’. He went on to note:
“In the chartered school world, we have been granted a charter for a certain period of time. If we don’t perform at the level we need to for students and parents, we won’t remain a school. There are 300 (traditional) school districts in Indiana. Of those 300, how many do you know of that have been closed?” (ibid).
John Jacobson, dean of the Teachers College at Ball State seemed to be in denial when he told the Starpress.com, an online journal out of East Indiana:
“Charter schools broaden the educational choices and opportunities available, and we believe that benefits students, parents, and communities. They are also one of many ways to stimulate educational innovation. We would welcome additional partners in this effort” (ibid).
This is the same old ‘boosterism’ and market based rhetoric that has failed to produce much but corporate profits and union busting. One is reminded of the words of Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister for the Third Reich:
“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas in disguise.”
So now we are told that charter school failure is charter school success. The corporate media, of course, reports the ‘facts’ clothed in the favorable rhetoric of the social prevaricators of school success. Even in light of the gloomy statistics a BSU-authorized career academy charter school is due to open in South Bend, Indiana to ‘help’ graduates go on to college to become electrical engineers, or to become electricians or sheet-metal workers after high school. You cannot make this stuff up.
The whole thing is disgusting and raises the question of ‘where is the American Federation of Teachers leadership and especially president Randi Weingarten’ when it comes to combating the doublethink with critical thinking? Other than a recent article in the Nation magazine countenancing her position on privatization and ‘school reform’ she is nowhere. Weingarten and the union are missing in action. Meanwhile support is growing in the Indiana State Legislature to expand who can authorize or sponsor charter schools.