In Harlem, 43 percent of eighth-graders pass state math tests. In Kenny's schools, 100 percent pass. So if charters work, why aren't there more of them? Because teachers unions hate them. The president of the Newark Teachers Union, Joseph Del Grosso, doesn't want charters in what he calls "his schools."
"Over my dead body, they're going to come there," he told me.
Because of that attitude, people who try to start charter schools often find that bureaucrats make it hard. But in one city, most kids now attend charters. How did that happen?
It happened because when Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans, it also destroyed the school system. Some school reformers thought that might be a blessing.
"It was probably one of the worst school districts in the country," said Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana state superintendent of education. The state faced a choice: Rebuild the old system or build something new. It built something new. Opening charters became easy. Today, most kids in New Orleans attend charter schools, and test scores are better.
Ben Marcovitz started a charter school called Sci Academy.
"We have complete control over the quality of our instruction."
At first, only a third of his students were proficient on state tests. Now, Sci Academy's test results are among the best in the city.
Competition drives schools to try different things in order to succeed. It's similar to what happens with consumer goods -- computers, refrigerators, cars -- that get better every year.
If charter schools do this well, imagine what a really free and competitive system -- one without compulsory tax financing and bureaucratic chartering procedures -- could do.
Our kids deserve a free market in education.
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