Charter school bill highlights privatization issues


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Another year, another ill-advised education reform proposal from a North Carolina lawmaker.

The Charlotte Observer reported on Aug. 8 that Rep. Rob Bryan has been working behind the scenes on a bill which would force select low-performing schools in the state to convert to the charter school system.

Schools that do not transition would be shut down, according to the bill.

This plan is just one in an established trend of taking education out of the public sphere. Charter schools proponents like to argue that charter schools are public schools because they accept public funds, cannot discriminate in admissions and are subject to certain testing requirements.

However, it has become increasingly apparent that the charter sector in North Carolina is serving as a prime target for the privatization efforts of leaders and activists in the state.

An October 2014 Pro Publica report details the involvement of prominent businessmen and conservative organizations like the John Locke Foundation in promoting, and often in managing, charter schools in the state.

The article focuses on Baker Mitchell, a businessman who has been active in both running charter schools in the state as well as lobbying for the deregulation of the charter sector. One of Mitchell’s efforts includes attempting to take away the State Board of Education’s regulatory authority over charter schools.

Privatization would have an incredibly bad effect on North Carolina. Public education is necessary to provide equality of opportunity and provide equal access to all students while placing the goal of educating students above all else.

The public school system is not perfect, but introducing the profit motive into education would do much more harm than good.

Is it really difficult to see how charter school operators intent on making a profit might diverge from the imperative to prioritize equality of access and student learning?

One of the most important goals of education at all levels is the flattening of inequality, giving people the knowledge and the skills to rise up in the world. Putting the futures of children in the hands of private interests would only sabotage that mission.

To counteract these disastrous trends, it is important that any with any stake in public education work to ensure that education stays public.

Griffin, a senior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.