No Love for Charter Schools

The Portland Public School Board recently denied all four requests from charter school applicants who wanted to offer more options for Portland children in the 2008-09 school year.

The Willamette Week described the meeting this way:

Charter schools got no love Monday night from Portland Public Schools’ Board of Education. The board unanimously rejected four new charter applications in a two-hour smackdown that strayed into the bizarre. One example: board member David Wynde filibustering for 10 minutes on the plethora of choices already available for school-shopping parents and students. ‘These are not the times and these are not the places’ for adding more school choices, Wynde said. ‘I don’t believe in a completely free-market system.‘ Before 2004, the School Board approved eight out of 11 charter applications. Of the 17 applications since 2004, the School Board has OK’d only two.”

The PPS board also has signaled its intention to begin restricting transfers within the District. Board members claim they are fighting segregation. But most of the parents who want to leave their “neighborhood” schools are minorities. The other reason commonly given for restricting choice is to preserve the district’s “neighborhood” schools.

But preserve them for whom? If parents opt out of their “neighborhood” school when given the opportunity to chose a different school for their child, why force them to stay?

In reality, what school board members are fighting is a loss of power. If the district serves a smaller percentage of the school-aged children in its area, then all the adults who run the district system (unions, administrators and education elitists) are less powerful—and it is those interests the PPS board chooses to protect.

The children lose.

Matt Wingard is Director of the School Choice Project at Cascade Policy Institute, a think tank based in Portland, Oregon.

© 2008, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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