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Charter Schools Thrive in Minneapolis: World Doesn't Come To End

by Christopher Chantrill
March 02, 2006 at 10:47 am

THE BIG OBSTACLE to school choice is fear. It’s the fear that everyone will flee the public schools for charter schools and voucher schools and leave a disaster behind. A generation of kids will be lost in that disaster.

It’s easy to imagine such a scenario, and that is why the forces of reaction have played it up, fanning fears of chaos among parents.

In Minneapolis the end of the world scenario is playing out right before our very eyes. But don’t worry. The world isn’t coming to an end.

Minnesota has a pretty liberal law for forming charter schools, reports Katherine Kersten,

In 1990 Minnesota allowed students to cross district boundaries to enroll in any district with open seats. Two years later in St. Paul, the country's first charter school opened its doors... Today, this tradition of choice is providing a ticket out for kids in the gritty, mostly black neighborhoods of north and south- central Minneapolis.

OK. Let’s stop right there. Hallelujah!

Something momentous is happening here in the home of prairie populism: black flight. African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools. Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools.

As this is happening, the city school system is cratering. And the parents and voters aren’t holding their hands and waiting for Armageddon. They are asking why the school district isn’t doing a better job at improving its schools and adapting to lower enrollment.

The district has handled budget cutbacks and school closings ineptly, leading some parents to joke bitterly about its tendency to penalize success and reward failure.
...
Black leaders like Louis King have had enough. He has a message for the school board: "You'll have to make big changes to get us back." He says the district needs a board that views families as customers and understands that competition has unalterably changed the rules of the game. "I'm a strong believer in public education," says Mr. King. "But this district's leaders have to make big changes or go out of business. If they don't, we'll see them in a museum, like the dinosaurs."

That’s the kind of attitude I like to see. All of a sudden, the burden of proof has shifted from the school choice advocates to the defenders of the status quo. The folks in Minneapolis believe that if the public school system is failing it is the schools’ problem not the parents’ problem. You know what? They are right.

That is a huge win for school choice.

And, after all, if you can get out, to another school district or to a charter school, why worry? In ten years or so the system will be fixed and everyone will live happily ever after.

Best of all, school choice advocates will be able to point to Minneapolis and say to the fearful: Be Not Afraid. School choice is not the end of the world. They tried it in Minneapolis, and it worked.

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


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©2007 Christopher Chantrill