About a year ago, Diane Ravitch wrote a piece in The Nation called “Why I Changed My Mind”. The piece was a summary of the main claims of her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. She reported that she had changed her mind about “choice” and “accountability” – or at least how these have been interpreted, especially in No Child Left Behind.
About “accountability” she wrote: “the emphasis on accountability for the past eight years has encouraged schools to pay less attention to important subjects and inflate their test scores by hook or by crook.” The most visible example of this – no doubt there are more that are less visible – was the scandal in the Washington D.C. schools that USA Today uncovered this past March.
About “choice” Ravitch wrote: “Now the charter sector sees itself as competition for the public schools. Some are profit-driven; some are power-driven. In some cities, charter chains seek to drive the public schools out of business.” She then noted that some charters have large marketing budgets. This has been the case in Albany, NY, where there has been extensive advertising for the charter schools, and the public schools system has increased its marketing budget in response – needless to say, diverting scarce resources from other goals. Even large advertising budgets need not indicate that they are attempting to harm or to drive the public schools out of business. But from today’s Albany Times-Union:
A group associated with Albany’s charter schools sent out multiple fliers and likely paid for a push poll to kill the Albany school budget.
At least three separate fliers were sent to Albany residents in the last two weeks that encouraged voters to reject the school budget and intentionally exaggerated a tax rate increase to mislead voters. A telephone push poll also asked city residents leading questions including if they were fed up with tax increases and wasteful spending.
Albany’s charter schools are currently reimbursed about $12,000 per student by the Albany school district. A defeat of the budget would have no effect on the charter schools, which received $30 million in Albany taxpayer money this school year.
Some of the money for the organization [which paid for the fliers] has come from Albany’s charter schools, which means Albany taxpayers may have supported an entity that has encouraged them to vote down the district’s $206.5 million budget proposal.
The budget passed by a vote of 3,555 to 3,382.