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August 17, 2004

Another Bush Promise a Lie

David Broder recently noted that it's hard to see how Bush can be reelected when two of his major initiatives, using tax cuts to create jobs and invading Iraq to fight weapons of mass destruction, have been failures built on fundamental lies.

Well, add in the third leg of his triumvirate of major initiatives, namely Bush's promise to reform education and "Leave No Child Behind." This policy promised to move children out of failed public schools and move the money to innovative "charter schools" where, free from teachers unions and bureaucratic red tape, childrens' performance would zoom.

Except, not so much.

Buried in statistics on national testing results is a devastating result for Bush's education agenda: charter schools systematically deliver worse education results than traditional public schools:

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.
To make sure comparisons were accurate, researchers broke down the data by income and race of students as well, and in virtually all cases, charter school students did worse than similar students in regular public schools.

It's actually not surprising that cutting accountability leads to questionable results, especially with some of the shady deals involved in management of some of the schools:

Around the country, more than 80 charter schools were forced to close, largely because of questionable financial dealings and poor performance, said Luis Huerta, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College. In California, the state's largest charter school operator has just announced the closing of at least 60 campuses, The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday, stranding 10,000 children just weeks before the start of the school year.
In theory, the idea of encouraging more innovation in public school design is a good thing. Kids are different and creating more options may help some find approaches that work better for them.

However, if the main point of charter schools is to cut teachers salaries and allow self-dealing corporations into our school system, the results are bound to fail.

But then, busting workers salaries and letting corporations run wild seems to be the connecting thread between Bush's education initiatives, economic policies, and defense department policies.

Posted by Nathan at August 17, 2004 07:31 AM