Indy Charter Schools

In Indianapolis the superintendent, Eugene White*, generally known as a reformer, is calling for a moratorium on public charter schools there saying too many students are choosing the charters instead of traditional public schools and it’s undermining his efforts to improve the existing public schools. Looks like the mayor, Bart Peterson, is going to say no, and the local paper is in his corner. It’s an interesting situation, couple of takeaways:

First, having watched Indy for a while and been involved with some work there, I think the chain of causation runs the opposite way the superintendent is arguing it does. In other words, the improvements in the traditional public schools are happening primarily because of the growth of charters not despite them. It’s hard to miss the increase in urgency since charters came on the scene. They are forcing action and are in part why there is a change-oriented superintendent there in the first place now.

Second, this shows -again- that it’s a political logic not an economic logic that governs schools. To oversimplify just slightly, this would be like Blockbuster demanding a moratorium on new providers of movie rentals when Netflix started to gain market share. Instead, Blockbuster had to -gasp- start offering new ways to rent DVDs, too.

Finally, public school supporters should be cheering Indy because it shows that change is possible from stimulus within the public sector not just external to it. Indy isn’t changing because of vouchers or privatization in the strict sense of that term but rather through the public sector reforming itself. Why gum that up?

*We’re on a board together for one of the mayor’s initiatives.

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