Calling a For Profit Cyber School Receiving Public Money a “Public School” is Misleading and Disingenuous
On Thursday afternoon, Common Dreams posted education reporter Jeff Bryant’s latest Education Opportunity Network article, “What Betsy DeVos Means When She Says “Public Schools” on their website today… and it is an understatement to say her definition of “public schools” is misleading. As Mr. Bryant notes, there is an effort underway across the country to rebrand “…for-profit virtual charters and private school recipients of taxpayer-backed vouchers as public schools.” Such re-branding is misleading and disingenuous. These schools play by different rules. They are deregulated, not subject to the same accountability standards as public schools, and not governed by publicly elected officials. They are no more a public institution than a bouncer at a bar or a security guard at a department store are “policemen.” While the bouncer and security guard perform some of the same functions as a police officer, they have far less training, a far narrower scope of responsibility, and are not answerable to the public. If police departments heard that bouncers and security guards were “re-branded” as public policeman they’d be annoyed. Yet people seem to think public school teachers should be unperturbed when for profit institutions or virtual instruction enterprises are called “public schools.”
But, as Mr. Bryant notes, the public is generally unaware of the differences between charter schools and bona fide public schools, and this lack of understanding has created an opening for opportunistic charter profiteers:
These important differences between charter schools and traditional public schools are not generally understood or appreciated by even the most knowledgeable people, which is why charter advocates put so much energy and resources in marketing their operations as “public” schools.
Jeff Bryant concludes his article with this:
School choice proponents like DeVos often argue that all that matters is whether students who attend charters, online schools, and private academies do well on standardized tests and that parents are generally satisfied with these choices.
But this argument ignores the tax-paying public that deserves to know whether those outcomes are being achieved without wasting our public dollars, which more often than not, they probably are.
If a school is governed by a board elected by the voters, adheres to regulations developed by a state agency in accordance with laws passed by elected officials, and is held to standards set by elected officials or their appointees, it is a “public” school. Anything else is anti-democratic and private and should not receive any public funds from taxpayers.