Education Reform with Beer and Bourbon

Tis my wont to recount conversations with colleagues and students by assigning them pseudonyms similar to their real names.  However, the debates I describe here weren’t with work folks, but two public figures, each quite well-known in their own field. Identifying them would not only compromise my own pseudonymity, but also be a bit too much like (heh) talking out of school.   Simply assigning them similar names might help someone figure out their identities as well.

Therefore, I’ve chosen to name the two men for the booze imbibed whilst debate was underway.

My first sparring partner is very well-known in education reform circles; anyone who reads or writes about ed policy would at least know his name. We met in a pub, a good one, and went through easily four rounds before dinner crossed our minds. And so he is Beer.

The second man is more famous than the first in any absolute sense. He’s frequently on TV where his name is met with applause, and writes for a major political magazine. If I described his achievements even in the most generic sense, most Republicans would be able to identify him. I met him in a bar with other fans, after he gave a speech (not at the bar), and Maker’s Mark was flowing free, so he’s Bourbon.

Bourbon doesn’t talk or present like an elite, but his educational resume reads like one. Describing Beer’s educational history would give away his identity, but suffice it to say a simple google doesn’t give up his alma mater, although he has one. Beer spent some time teaching K-12 in high poverty schools. Bourbon has not taught K-12, poverty or otherwise.

Beer’s views are difficult to predict, save his primary cause, which I can’t describe because it would instantly identify him. Bourbon, who is not involved with education in any real sense, holds utterly typical conservative views: choice, more choice, and more choice still, vouchers good, unions suck. In both cases, I knew this going in. I’ve read both men’s work for years.

As to my own participation, the setting with Beer is right in my zone. We talked for easily three hours. I had plenty of time to lose track, retrack, restate, dig deep, hop around, zing his boss with a clever tag (he laughed).  I was at my best.

Bourbon, on the other hand, was a celebrity giving time to fans. I was one of many. He was generously sharing his time with everyone.  It was a good time for an elevator speech, and, er, well. I write something under 1000 words, it’s a big day. Short enough for three floors, I don’t do. Paradigm-shifting takes time and in this case I’d never really expected education policy to emerge as a topic. So I don’t know what sort of impression I left. At my best, for better or worse,  people remember me. I’m not sure Bourbon would.

Wait. Trump-voting teacher,  three credentials, thinks charters and choice are overrated and expensive.

He’ll remember me.

Anyway.  While I enjoyed both encounters tremendously,  I’m writing about them because both Beer and Bourbon made comments that helped me to see past the end of this era of education reform. Both men, in the midst of discussions about various education policy issues, waved off an issue that was a foundational basis for the modern education reform movement.

In Beer’s case, we were discussing his ready acceptance of cherrypicking charters. Because charter school attendance isn’t a right linked directly to geography, as it is for public schools, charters can be selective. There are academically selective chartersimmigrant only charters, Muslim-run charters. Despite all these obvious cases, the major public argument is about the technically open charters (KIPP, Success, other no excuses charters) and whether or not they are secretly selective. The research is pretty conclusive on this point, much as charter advocates deny it.

But Beer shrugged this off. “I want charters to skim. I want them to be selective.”

I was taken aback. “I mean, come on.  Go back to the mid-90s when charters started taking off. The entire argument for charters was ‘failing public schools’. The whole point was that the failure of public education was located in the public schools themselves: unions, bad teachers, stupid rules, curriculum, whatever. Charter schools, freed from all those stupid laws, but open to everyone, could do better automatically simply by not being those rules bound public schools. Now you’re saying that they can’t actually do better unless they skim, unless they have different discipline rules.”


“But….that won’t scale.”


“And you’re going to increase segregation, probably, since if charters can skim then they’re going to focus more on homogeneity.”

Shrug. “I want as many kids to get as good an education as possible. Skim away.”

I don’t want to continue, because I don’t want to get his arguments wrong. And for this particular piece, the shrug is the point.

So now, on to Bourbon who was waxing eloquent on the uselessness of unions, one large one (with which I am unaffiliated) in particular.

“They’re losing kids because their schools suck. It’s not money.  They’ve had billions. They want more, more, always more. Charters just do a better job and don’t whine for money.”

“Well, charters get to pick and choose their kids. But leaev that aside, charters aren’t ever going to end public schools. Catholic schools in inner cities have been almost obliterated. and even  private schools are getting hurt bad by charters, with declining enrollment. Once you offer basically private school at public prices, then many people who would otherwise pay private are going to go for the free option.”

“That’s fine.”

“Wait, what? You’re arguing in favor of a government policy that kills private enterprise?”

“Sure. Well, I reject your premise that private schools are being hurt all that bad by charters. But if so, so what?”

I can only imagine the look on my face. “So you’re arguing against free markets and private enterprise?”

“No that’s what I’m arguing for. Free markets. Parental choice.”

“But no. You are arguing for public schools to be able to act like private schools. That’s government intervention. If the public option allows discrimination and selectivity,  there’s no need for private.”


“But then you’re moving all the teachers from the private market into the public market–meaning higher salaries, higher pensions, more government costs. And because these are basically private schools, so you can cap–so there will be even more teachers, thus creating shortages, driving up salaries, driving up costs.”



I wasn’t mad. I was genuinely perplexed. Again, I’ll stop there, because I don’t want to recreate any part of a debate that I didn’t have down cold. In this case, as in Beer’s, I am certain that this was my understanding of Bourbon’s position, and I’m at least reasonably sure I had it right.

Like most teachers, I see the modern education reform movement (choice and accountability legs) as being fueled by two things. Funding the effort were billionaire Republicans or elitist technocrats, the first dedicated to killing the Democrat fundraising monster known as teacher unions, the second dedicated to upgrading a non-meritocratic profession. Nothing personal, that’s just how we see it.

But on the surface, where it counted, the argument for education reform focused on “failing schools”, caused by incompetent and stupid teachers, creating a horrible racial achievement gap because lazy teachers didn’t believe all students could succeed.

[Note: The actual arguments were often more nuanced than that, with many choice advocates like Cato and Jay Greene arguing for all choice and no accountability, and others arguing that all students, regardless of race, deserved the education of their choice. But the bottom line sale, the one designed to gain the support of a public who loved their own schools, was the let’s get poor kids out of failing schools pitch.}

A while back at Steve Sailer’s blog, I wrote a short synopsis of the rise and fall of the modern education reform era, and I probably should rewrite it for here sometime. I’ve also written at length about it here, notably “Good Teaching” and the Failure of Education ReformEnd of Education Reform?, and Charters: The Center Won’t Hold.

So the modern education reform movement will probably be dated in the future from either 1991 (first charter) or 1995, the year when the Public Charter Schools Program began, through the early heady days when people were allowed to say that KIPP was ending the achievement gap, the 1998 Higher Education Act, which advocates thought would kill ed schools, through No Child Left Behind,  onto New York becoming an all choice district, to Hurricane Katrina allowing the New Orleans’ conversion to an all-charter district, Race to the Top waivers, Common Core, and then the unspooling: Adrian Fenty getting thrown out of office on account of Michelle Rhee (who has apparently left education entirely), Common Core opposition leading to a massive repudiation of all forms of federal accountability, teacher unions rising in red states after Janus was supposed to end union power entirely, and the wholesale rewrite of the ESEA that wiped out most of the reforms won during the Bush/Obama era. Education reformers understand these are dark days, even though the mainstream media appears to have no idea anything happened.

Charters are ed reform’s one happy place. For the moment, they are still popular. Why not? They are, as I say, private schools at public prices.  Although everyone should look carefully at California, which is considering not only giving charter control to districts, but also restricting TFA and other alternative teacher programs.  Taxpayers may finally care about the issues that didn’t trouble Bourbon.

But as so much else falls away from their grasp, it’s instructive to see both an ed reformer and a conservative shrug off aspects of charters that the original case argued strongly against. Charters were supposed to weaken teachers, but unlimited charters coupled with strong federal laws will only increase their scarcity. Charters were supposed to improve the achievement gap for all kids, but now they’ll just do so for a lucky few.

Or am I missing something?

Anyway. They were great arguments, and have given me much to mull. My thanks to Beer and Bourbon–both the men and the booze.


I met some other cool people at the Bourbon event, and at some point in the evening, I mentioned I write a blog.

One guy said, “Wow, that’s dangerous for a teacher.”

“Indeed, which is why it’s an anonymous blog.”

“Really? I read a blog written by an anonymous teacher from this area who voted for Trump.”

I laughed. “Well, if that’s true, then you read me, although I never say what area I’m from.”

“It can’t be you.”

“I’m crushed.”

“No, no, I just mean…it’s not you.”

“OK, then I’d love to know who it is, because as far as I know I’m the only anonymous teacher blogger, Trump voter or otherwise, from this area.”

He got out his phone, brought up his Twitter account, and clicked on a profile. “This you?”

And reader, it was.

First time I’ve met my audience!

About educationrealist

43 responses to “Education Reform with Beer and Bourbon

  • Jay

    Honestly, they both have a point. In a world of limited resources, spending money on the students who are likely to generate the biggest payoff down the road, i.e. cherry picking, is a solid strategy. It’s the strategy pretty much every other developed nation uses in education, which is why Asian school entrance exams are such a big deal (the question of who is a “cherry” and who isn’t has huge consequences in Japan or Korea).

    The U.S. educational system is based on the opposite strategy, the idea that justice requires resources to be spent on the least fortunate. Charters seem mostly to be a way to get away from the institutions wedded to that ideal with minimal political fuss.

    • educationrealist

      This kind of thinking always boggles my mind. I don’t mean the nasty “only some kids are worth it” nonsense. That’s annoying, but people like to think they’re tough.

      No, it’s the utter failure to realize that all the money is coming from the same pot.

      You aren’t spending more money on kids in charters. They aren’t getting extra resources from the public. THere’s not one pool for charter teachers. There’s not one fund that gets sent to the schools based on who the country–or you–deems worthy.

      No, all that happens is the resources are spread. The taxpayers are paying more money for more teachers and more pensions and more principles. And 20 years of that haven’t shown results so fantastic they’re worth the additional money.

      I really don’t think you understood the point of the Bourbon conversation.

      No one is getting more money based on whether or not they are worth it. Charters are not a little extra privilege we give to kids who are worth it. Charters are just additional schools, splintering resources. They will not only raise everyone’s taxes, they will dramatically raise teacher pay–particularly in rich districts that can afford the most pay–and everyone will pay for the higher pensions on increased pay.

      Charters were started in the hope that they’d kill teacher pay, kill teacher pensions, start merit pay, and so on. They manifestly failed at that, and the public has demonstrated it wants no part of it. Now, all they are doing is costing more money for everyone.

      Again–it has *nothing* to do with giving some kids extra resources. It never was.

      • Roger Sweeny

        If Bourbon thinks that charters can rely on government money yet be free of government control …

        Over time, it may wax and wane, but it will never be zero and it can come close to 100%.

      • educationrealist

        Exactly. So not only will it cost billions more, but all the things that make charters what they want will disappear.

      • Roger Sweeny

        I don’t understand the argument that charters will “raise everyone’s taxes” and “dramatically raise teacher pay”.

        Charters do not increase the number of students. Any additional child in a charter school means one less child in a traditional public school. Fewer teachers are needed in the public school. Less money is needed in the public school.

        Perhaps you are saying, public schools never shrink, the teaching force is never reduced, but that doesn’t seem to be true. Perhaps it is true that public school budgets and personnel are reduced less than charter school budgets and personnel increase.

      • educationrealist

        “Charters do not increase the number of students. Any additional child in a charter school means one less child in a traditional public school. Fewer teachers are needed in the public school. Less money is needed in the public school.”

        1) Yes, they do, if charters are drawing from private schools. Which they are.

        2) It’s nowhere near 1 to 1. Are you serious? If a charter opens with, say, 60 kids in high school they will need 8 teachers minimum plus administrators. All without making a dent in what the public school near them needs–and again, some of the kids will come from private school. All of that is additional money. That’s one charter. Now, multiply that by 10. 600 kids. At that point, you might need 2 fewer teachers at the public high school. Maybe 3. Meanwhile, the charter needs somewhere around 20 teachers.

        This is not up for debate. A local community has X kids requiring Y teachers and Z administrators.

        Start a charter and you either have X or X+a kids (with “a” coming from private schools). You have Y + b teachers and Z +_ 2 administrators.’

        Moreover, the charter school can cap, so if it gets to a certain point it can start a new charter, which is X (or X + a+a1) kids, Y + b1 + b2 kids and Z + 2 + 2 + 1 administrators (someone gets kicked upstairs).

        All on government money.

        How the heck can anyone not grasp this costs more public funds?

      • Roger Sweeny

        Thinking some more: If charters replace truly private schools, government expenditure–and eventually taxes–will increase. However, unless the charters have a lower teacher/student ratio, the demand for teachers won’t.

        If the former private school teachers stop teaching, the supply of teachers will go down, meaning upward pressure on wages. That might be the case for priests and nuns teaching in Catholic schools, but my impression is that the teaching staff in Catholic schools is now mostly lay people and religious nearing retirement. The laity would stay in the market and the religious would be leaving anyway.

      • Jay

        Here in Florida, charters get the same amount per student as every other school (in principle). In practice, this means that special education gets quite a bit less than it otherwise would, as it takes considerable extra resources to make even modest progress in that field. So charters have some effect of pulling resources toward the better students (in comparison to the alternative) by decoupling the budgets for different student populations.

        Over time the charters might be loaded up with individual disability plans, special education, etc., and become no different from other public schools. OTOH,the culture is changing, and if people like Beer and Bourbon are making the decisions then maybe not.

      • educationrealist

        There’s no “might” about it, and Beer and Bourbon have nothing to say on the matter.

        “So charters have some effect of pulling resources toward the better students (in comparison to the alternative) by decoupling the budgets for different student populations.”

        Jesus, you are moronic. YOU ARE PAYING FOR BOTH. Can you grasp that they aren’t coming from different buckets?

      • Jay

        Also, bright kids don’t need more resources in general*. Teaching calculus isn’t more expensive than teaching fractions. What they need is content provided at an appropriate pace (i.e. fast enough to keep them engaged), with an appropriate amount of review material (i.e. hardly any).

        *A few lab classes are nice, if you have the budget. Preferably the sorts of labs where kids go home with little yellow stains on their hands from nitric acid and nobody makes a big deal of it.

      • educationrealist

        Again, I can’t do this anymore. You are incapable of grasping the point, just maundering on saying the same thing. It’s embarrassing. Done.

      • Roger Sweeny

        How the heck can anyone not grasp this costs more public funds?

        Well, maybe I don’t know enough. I hear you saying that charters will be boutiques, small and requiring a lot of staff for a small amount of students. Meanwhile, the small decrease in public school students will not lead to much (if any) of a decrease in public school staff.

        That may well be true, in which case the cost is certainly higher. Of course, I can hear some charter supporters saying, “why are you blaming us when the public schools won’t shrink to reflect their lost students?”

        It is ironic that one of the original arguments for charters (or “the money follows the child” making a market for private schools) was that the charters (and private schools) would be more efficient, without the bureaucracy of big public school systems, thus leading to actually spending less.

        As I recall, there was also an argument that charters and private schools would treat their teachers better, have a better “atmosphere” or “school culture”, giving teachers more freedom and allowing them to use more creativity, and generally making them more invested in the school. Teachers would get paid partly in greater job satisfaction so they would be paid less in money–leading to less public funds being spent.

        If charters can indeed “skim” and get smarter and better behaved students, that’s worth a lot to a potential hire.

      • educationrealist

        “I can hear some charter supporters saying, “why are you blaming us when the public schools won’t shrink to reflect their lost students?”

        You think losing 60 students makes a dent in a public school of 2000?

        They can’t shrink to reflect their lost students right away. Over time they will lose some sections, but they’ll still need a certain number of teachers to cover those sections. If you have 150 kids, you will need 5 English teachers. If you have 140 kids, you will still need 5 English teachers.

        That’s what I mean when I say (in Twitter) that charters failed in their initial goals. They thought lots and lots of teachers would be forced out. Nope.

        Also, even if it was one for one. Even if every new charter teacher meant one less public school teacher, charters can cap. So if charters cap, then the same amount of public school students will *always* be more in charters, because there will be more schools, thus more teachers, and more administrators. And more buildings.

      • Roger Sweeny

        If that 2000 student high school wants 24 students to a class and 5 classes to a teacher, they would have 17 English teachers and an average of 23.5 students per class. If a charter took away 60 students, the big school would now have an average of 22.8 students per class. If they laid off an English teacher, they would have 24.25 students per class, more than they wanted. I assume the teacher would stay.

        If the charter is smaller than the average number of students per high school teacher, it will almost certainly lead to more teachers employed.

        Public schools losing students could lead to consolidations and closings of now “underused” schools. You could even fire some administrators. But parents hate the former; look at Chicago. And administrators are unlikely to do the latter.

      • educationrealist

        Which is my point. If you don’t restrict charters, you will just get fewer students, less money in public schools, but same expenses. Meanwhile, public funds still paying for charters.

      • educationrealist

        “If charters can indeed “skim” and get smarter and better behaved students, that’s worth a lot to a potential hire.”

        Turns out it’s not. Public schools have the easiest time hiring teachers. One of the good things about this mess is that when we finally run out of teachers, charters will be closing., not publics.

      • Roger Sweeny

        Perhaps we education cynics know charters skim but potential hires don’t. Or perhaps there is skimming but it’s not enough to make a difference. And the fact that skimming is illegal perhaps makes it something people don’t feel they can rely on to make a big difference–and/or worry that a crack down will take it away.

        There is a charter in eastern Massachusetts, the Advanced Math and Science Academy, founded by a Russian woman who did indeed want it to be pretty exclusive. Demand is greater than supply so admission is by lottery, but I gather the standards are fairly high and the student body is above average in intelligence and conscientiousness (the school consistently scores near the top in Massachusetts state tests and since I think it is 90% true that, “Good schools do not make good students; good students make good schools”, that tells me they are successfully skimming).

        But AMSA illustrates another way that charters aren’t necessarily appealing to potential teachers. Flexibility can be good or bad for the workforce. From widipedia, “In 2014, teachers at the school unionized, organizing with the Teamsters Local 170, in response to reported poor treatment under then Executive Director John Brucato.” The Russian woman had stepped down (been forced out?) years before.

      • educationrealist

        Oh, yeah, it’s a mortal lock. Charters will be unionized. And once they are, there’s not much advantage to them.

      • Roger Sweeny

        I’m curious. Most workplaces aren’t unionized. What makes schools so different that you think “it’s a mortal lock. Charters will be unionized”?

      • educationrealist

        Most workplaces aren’t allowed to be unionized. These days, I think a lot more of them would rather be unionized.

        Also, even in weak union states, teaching is a specialized skill that has federal requirements, so as you can see with WV and KY, the teachers can just walk out and the state is helpless. They can’t hire replacements easily.

      • Roger Sweeny

        Most workplaces aren’t allowed to be unionized.

        That’s simply not true. Period. Full stop.

        “They can’t hire replacements easily” seems closer to an explanation. But it seems incomplete to me. There are lots of jobs where “they can’t hire replacements easily”, even if there are no federal requirements. But most of those jobs aren’t unionized. Maybe the sheer volume of teachers.

      • educationrealist

        Well, let’s start by agreeing that most professionals don’t want to be unionized. I certainly didn’t.

        But you’re just wrong if you don’t think companies would basically up and move shop or take other actions if their staff unionized. There’s all sorts of evidence that Walmart, Amazon, and other big employers actively and covertly discourage unions. And there’s no real reason to think the employees wouldn’t rather unions, if they got them as effortlessly as teachers did.

        And now pretend you’re a teacher at a charter school, with no protections, being forced to work longer hours or losing prep without pay, and right down the street is a school where you won’t get fired and can’t work more hours without pay. Eventually, you’re going to leave for the other school, or try to unionize yours. And in the case of teachers, there’s a ready and willing infrastructure. It’s been quite easy for charters to unionize, once the schools were forced to stop breaking the law.

      • Roger Sweeny

        I do not think most companies would up and close shop if their workforce unionized.

        There is a whole industry (mini-industry?) of consultants who advise firms on how of minimize the chances of unionization. It generally boils down to, “convince your employees that whatever the union gains them won’t be worth the dues”, with various things the company can do to make their employees happier–and/or more afraid of what would happen with a union. I am sure that “being forced to work longer hours or losing prep without pay” is something these people would advise against 🙂 If that’s the business model of new charters, it won’t work for long.

        I’m curious. Are “prep schools” unionized? If not, why not? Perhaps teachers are paid well and/or treated well. And there may be a non-pecuniary compensation of teaching “prep school kids”–entitled but smart and hard working.

        Unionizing isn’t effortless, but it hasn’t gotten any harder, and the share of unionized workers in the private sector keeps going down. However, as you say, the ed sector has ” a ready and willing [union] infrastructure.”

      • educationrealist

        “Are “prep schools” unionized? ”

        Do you mean private schools? They aren’t unionized because they take the dregs.

        All I can tell you is that corporations spend a ton of time ensuring their employees don’t unionize. And the reason the employees don’t unionize is because they are afraid they will lose their jobs. I’m talking about low, unskilled jobs.

        Government jobs pay well and get better benefits. Why? Unions. How did companies get away from good pay and better benefits? They killed unions. Sometimes by bankruptcy, sometimes by moving locations to weaker union states. Illegal aliens in the 80s had much to do with it. But sorry, I don’t believe that, all things being equal, most people in hourly jobs wouldn’t prefer a union on their sides. Not today.

    • Roger Sweeny

      By “prep schools”, I mean the long established private schools like Northfield Mt. Herman (many here in the northeast) that exist to get their students into selective colleges. A noticeable proportion of Ivy League students come from prep schools.

  • Roger Sweeny

    Beer sounds like he thinks charters can be “my own private Stuyvesant”.

  • jb

    Given the specificity of the stories you tell, I don’t think it would be hard for your students to identify you. Assuming they read education blogs that is.

  • Jay

    In Florida, where I live, raising taxes is nearly impossible and charter enrollments really do force school boards to cut expenditures. It’s in the news every spring. If your state does things differently, you may get different results.

    More generally, I don’t think you really grasp how many Americans consider typical public schools to be tragic- little more than prisons. People are willing to try just about anything else.

    I’m out.

    • educationrealist

      “In Florida, where I live, raising taxes is nearly impossible and charter enrollments really do force school boards to cut expenditures.”


      So let me get this straight. You support charters because in your state, more teachers means cutting public school funding even more, and you think that means charters get more?

      And you think that cutting school spending by creating more teachers and paying them less is a) a way to spend more resources on gifted kids and b) not going to be noticed by the huge population that doesn’t attend charter schools? Or is it c) not be noticed because everyone will be forced to attend charters, which have forced draconian cuts in spending?

      Trying to figure out which one is sillier.

  • Yella Peril

    Urgh. I can imagine the frustration.

    This charter boosting nonsense is why conservatives always lose- because they’re a bunch of losers.

    Hey, I’m all for like students being with like. Streaming is a great idea. That’s why we used to have neighbourhood schools. And why streaming used to be allowed to work effectively.

    Conservatives utterly failed to defend these very popular policies from the 60s and 70s onwards, and the idea that charter schools can somehow bring back their benefits is absurd. As Ed points out, whatever benefits charter schools might bring on the surface now will be watered down very quickly. In the meantime, they just cost more and kill private schools that will not be easily replaced.

    • teageegeepea

      I recall reading that the main benefit of charters is not better performance, but lower costs. By “in the meantime”, do you mean that they currently cost more, or that they will cost more?

  • Suburban Dad

    1. You’re obviously correct that, other things equal, total number of kids educated at public expense rise if charters draw kids from private school. I don’t love my taxes going up, but we’ve decided as a society that tax dollars should pay for education and it’s not fair to make a select few pay thousands more per year because they’re not happy with their local schools. It is certainly beyond cynical to make the local public options less attractive to get more people to pay for private school.

    2. You can come up with examples where small charters don’t draw enough students from other schools to let them cut any staff and examples where small charters draw just enough students from several different schools to allow big staff reductions at each. The fact of the matter is that if charter schools draw a significant student population and have the same student-teacher ratios as the places they draw from, teacher numbers stay the same. It’s just math.

    3. Even if teacher numbers did go up, along with administrator numbers (with probably do go up) the argument that this will effect total taxes does reflect how taxes are actually set. Yes, a small number of very large schools can theoretically be operated more efficiently that a large number of small schools, but tax rates are not based on the actual cost of running schools. Each year, school districts collect the maximum number of tax dollars that they can and then distribute the money based on calculations of district politics. If something increases the tax base, districts suddenly need the money. If something reduces the tax base, they find a way to make do without it. Sometimes the limit on taxes is legal. In other places it is political. In others, it actually reflects the ability of people to pay. In many places, it’s a complex combination of various factors. In all events, it’s not actual costs that determine tax rates. Available money is determined first and costs adjust to consume it all. There’s a lot of literature on this in public choice economics.

    4. Charter schools have checks on unionization that regular public schools do not. For one, an owner who did not think it could make a profit/give good education with a unionized workforce has a credible option of simply closing the school. Also, if teachers do unionize and make demands that hinder the operation of the school, parents can choose other charters or the regular public school and the charter can go out of business. Does this mean that no charter will unionize? Obviously not, but it does provide checks on union powers that do not exist at normal schools.

    5. Private schools hire the dregs??? For someone who has spent years arguing that it’s absurd to think one can easily distinguish good teachers from bad teachers and improve outcomes by firing bad ones and hiring more good ones, this is a very odd statement.

    And, no, I’m not a big charter school advocate, but I don’t think this is your best work. You have put forward an unprecedented (for you) number of weak arguments and, possibly worse, you seem to have intentionally misrepresented the views of your interlocutors, which have to run along the following: No, charter schools haven’t lived up to expectations, but I still support them because they provide an effective way to get brighter and/or more motivated students out of bad schools. Yes, we could do that cheaper by tracking but there’s not political will for tracking in most places and thus no way to save the brighter/motivated students.

    • educationrealist

      1. Yeah, it is fair. And it certainly is fair to make people pay for private school. I am not making public options less attractive. I am merely for removing schools that only say they are public, and making them what they actually are: private.

      2. You’re wrong. Teacher headcount has increased dramatically, and most of the increase comes from charter schools.

      3. Blah, blah, blah. Bottom line, more schools cost more taxpayer dollars.

      4. Charter schools are unionizing rapidly. Almost all charter growth comes from chains. If you ban charters from unionizing, which certainly is possible, it will just make it increasingly impossible to hire teachers. My guess is it will be very dfficult to stop them, but who knows.

      5. “The dregs” meaning people who can’t teach in public schools. Lots of private school teachers are fantastic, and just don’t want to go through the hassle of getting a credential. Nonetheless, while most people (including me) used to think that public school teachers went to private schools in big numbers, that’s just not true. Private schools hemorrhage teachers, and that means they have to settle for whatever they get–that is, dregs.

      ” No, charter schools haven’t lived up to expectations, but I still support them because they provide an effective way to get brighter and/or more motivated students out of bad schools. ”

      That is exactly what i said they said, so I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. When I said that would be much more expensive than what we have now, they shrugged.

      And those aren’t weak arguments at all. They’re very strong arguments. We’re spending a fortune on education. Over time, charters will increase that even more. That’s just a fact.

    • Roger Sweeny

      I was wondering recently, “Why are some colleges incredibly successful? They can charge ridiculously high prices and still have lots more people who want to attend than they have spaces for.” I think the answer is fairly simple: because they are selective.

      What would happen to Harvard if it had to accept students the way charters do, by a lottery? The average quality of Harvard students would quickly go down, and so (with a lag) would go the reputation and the desirability. In fact, before too long, Harvard would be little better (or worse) than 3,000 other colleges in the USA.

      If charters were allowed to be selective, they might begin to take off, and “provide an effective way to get brighter and/or more motivated students out of bad schools.” And, to the extent that charters can “skim” good students out of regular schools, they can indeed do this. But IT IS ILLEGAL and can’t be advertised. As long as they operate in such a legal environment, it will be inevitable that “charter schools haven’t lived up to expectations.”

  • surfer

    Bourbon = Charles Murray?

    I disagree with your take. I think cherrypicking is a form of tracking and thus very rational. I get that you work hard and do good things. But I think it affects your taking sides on things a bit to defend public education or even just to accept the box you are in.

    • educationrealist

      No on Murray. I can’t figure out why you think your third sentence has anything to do with your last two, and why you can’t comprehend the difference between an economic fact and an emotional reaction, save that they both start with the same letter.

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