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February 19 2016

A "Dangerous" Charter School

Charlotte Hays

You would think that any community would be eager to have successful public schools, such as the high-ranked Basis school in Scottsdale, Arizona, grow and serve more children. Here from a Wall Street Journal commentary by Allysia Finley is a glimpse at the school's achievements:

In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Scottsdale school run by the Basis charter-school operator, grades five through 12, as the top charter and second-best public high school in the country. All Basis students take AP classes, and 96% pass their exams, compared with 57% nationwide. More than 90% of students scored proficient in math on state tests while only about half of students district wide do. The school is particularly well known for its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and foreign-language programs, which include Mandarin and Latin.

Like most charter schools, Basis Scottsdale doesn’t offer teacher tenure. Teachers are paid bonuses based on the number of students who pass AP exams with high scores. The school randomly selects students by lottery and has drawn many middle-class Asian families to the area with the promise of a free, top-flight education. There are nearly 1,200 students on the wait list.

Wow! If I had kids, I'd want to send them to a school like this (and force them to take Latin!).

The school's current premises are cramped and the school has purchased a tract of land that would enable it to accept more than five hundred more students (it currently has seven hundred and forty).

Instead of being thrilled that an excellent school will be able to serve more youngsters, however, neighbors are in an uproar, claiming that the school will create a traffic hazard. When school officials met with city officials to put forward a traffic plan to address this concern, opponents quickly switched to another rationale for denying the school. Now they are focusing on an easement.

This is a somewhat surprising development. Arizona has long been a state of rugged individualism. This fight against the charter school is atypical of Arizonans. Finley proposes that a big factor is that a lot of refugees from California, home of endless rules and regulations, have moved to the state. And of course public schools are always willing tojoin any fight to preserve their monopolies, even if  it is detrimental to children:

The Scottsdale Unified School District has said that some public schools may have to close because private and charter schools have reduced their enrollment. In a newsletter this month, the Parent Teacher Organization at nearby Mountainside Middle School warned that the new Basis school would be “dangerous” and could limit residents’ “access to their homes in case of a fire or emergency.”

All politics may be local, but the Scottsdale brouhaha echoes the squabbles over development that commonly occur in affluent California enclaves. Where Californians go, so go their political neuroses.

As for the closed non-charter public schools, it looks like they simply could not compete with better quality education from charters. The ideal would be for the other public schools to beef up their programs to compete with the charters. But, if they can't improve, what is so bad about closing them?   

 

 

 



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