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Charter School Accountability Will Remain Weak in 2021

Segregated charter schools have a high failure rate and are notorious for lacking accountability and oversight. Charter schools are also well-known for being non-transparent even though they are ostensibly “public” schools. This has been the case for nearly 30 years when charter schools first came into being. Over the years, endless reports, articles, and books have documented the chronic lack of accountability in the troubled charter school sector.

Privately-operated charter schools have always over-promised and under-delivered on accountability. This is closely related to why fraud and corruption remain entrenched in the charter school sector. The worn-out assertion that charter schools will deliver “results” and be accountable in exchange for autonomy and independence has always been a pretext to privatize education and fool the gullible. It has nothing to do with improving schools. The closing of several thousand charter schools over the years shows that charter schools are not a worthwhile “innovative experiment” or a “better alternative” to public schools. So much for “results-based accountability in education.”

As “free market” schools charter schools operate according to market accountability, which really means no accountability. Market accountability is a way to dodge public oversight and do as you please. The “free market” mainly delivers chaos, anarchy, and instability and allows many “bad actors” to stay in business. Market accountability also means treating parents and students as consumers, not as humans with a right to education that must be provided with a guarantee in practice. None of this is a modern, responsible, human-centered way of doing things.

The recent appointment of Karega Rausch as the new president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) will not result in any improved accountability for non-profit and for-profit charter schools, no matter how much fanfare surrounds his appointment. The former long-time president of NACSA, Greg Richmond, was well aware of the absence of meaningful accountability in the crisis-prone charter school sector. He made many direct and indirect references to this stubborn problem in different statements, press releases, and reports.

Karega has been a long-time promoter of deregulated charter schools and has worked in a range of organizations and settings funded by billionaires that advocate school privatization and the elimination of the public interest. Experience, facts, theory, analysis, and logic show that there is no reason to believe that charter school accountability will improve in 2021, with or without Karega. Without a change in the aim, direction, and outlook of education, society, and the economy things will actually go from bad to worse. Rosy words, grand promises, and repeating the word “innovation” 50 times a day will not change this.

The fact that charter school accountability bills drafted by legislators in many states over the years have usually gone nowhere is a testament to the power of the rich and their representatives to wreck the public sphere and promote school privatization with impunity. The rich are vigorously opposed to anything that hinders profit maximization and use every means at their disposal to restrict public right.

Moving forward, the rich are more determined than ever to privatize more schools as a way to avert the falling rate of profit under capitalism. This will further reduce transparency and accountability.

No one should be fooled by lofty phrases that promise all kinds of things that never materialize. Social consciousness must rise to a level that overcomes disinformation and unleashes the human factor to bring about change that favors the people. Old ideas, words, platitudes, practices, and institutions no longer work; they just contribute to going from bad to worse and leaving people frustrated, overwhelmed, and disempowered. Pressuring and begging politicians to serve the public interest is not going to suddenly start working in 2021. The existing political arrangements stand discredited and cannot provide a path forward. How many times has begging politicians and “leaders” left people feeling humiliated, exhausted, and with no meaningful solutions? Why keep doing the same ineffective thing over and over again? Why not learn from this experience and draw the warranted conclusions?

A new way of thinking and acting is the necessity of the times. This includes relying on and organizing ourselves and speaking up in our own name. It means paying attention to our own organizational, political, and ideological needs instead of relying on others to serve our interests. In this sense, accountability begins at home.

Workers, students, youth, and women must step up resistance to all aspects of the neoliberal antisocial offensive and strengthen action with analysis. They must establish their own reference points and abandon the reference points imposed on them by the rich and their political and media representatives. The retrogressive vision and agenda of the rich must be replaced by a vision and agenda that advances the public interest.

More privatization and marketization of education means less accountability.

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