Last week, the National Education Association (NEA) voted to adopt a new policy statement on public charter schools. Ignoring mounting evidence that the best charter systems are finally giving urban children a shot at a decent education, the NEA calls for a moratorium on the creation and expansion of public charter schools.
The NEA says it based this new statement on yearlong research conducted by its Charter Taskforce. Unfortunately, the taskforce report[ii] is a shoddy piece of work that echoes the same old falsehoods about public charter schools, including that the schools “counsel out” the worst students and that they increase segregation. The former has been heavily refuted[iii]. The latter is also unproven. Charter schools’ demographics are not significantly different than their neighborhood public schools[iv] (They do, however, produce significantly better academic results with a similar student composition[v]).
And, of course, the NEA beats its favorite drum, claiming that public charter schools drain resources from public schools—which is impossible, since charters are public schools. The report concludes that charter schools are a “failed and damaging experiment.”
This is fear mongering worthy of a prize. But it’s the NEA that’s actually afraid – for its future. The NEA no doubt fears that a growing charter sector means a shrinking teachers’ union. That need not be the case, however, if the union evolves to fit into 21st century school systems rather than block the progress of charter schools with policy statements and moratoriums.