- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009


On the surface, the Obama administration’s threat to withhold federal “stimulus” dollars from states that refuse to lift their caps on charter schools looks like a victory for public school choice. Isn’t an end to statist restrictions on innovative charters what supporters of school choice have been advocating for years? Well, yes, but those advocates would be well-advised to look below the surface at the likely conditions that will accompany massive federal aid, as Phil Brand’s perceptive column advises (“Don’t look for the union label,” Opinion, Wednesday).

President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have called repeatedly for imposing tight “accountability” on charter schools as part of the aid deal — and closing those that fail to rise to their standards. They have issued these declarations while openly inviting teachers unions to be part of the chartering (or dechartering) process. Meanwhile, the unions are busily trying to unionize the teaching staffs of some of the nation’s most successful charter schools.

Charter schools already have a far higher level of accountability than do conventional public schools. They are accountable to parents, who may pull their children out if they are dissatisfied. The second key to successful charter schools is the ability of strong principals to reward productive teachers and fire incompetent ones. Parental choice and “at will” employment are antithetical to the unionized model Mr. Obama is embracing. Let all buyers beware.


Senior fellow for education policy

The Heartland Institute


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