Many charter schools claim they can offer a better education than traditional public schools, but a recent New York Times piece has many wondering if that’s actually the case.
Success Academy, a high-profile New York City charter school group, is accused of keeping a list of kids to be forced out of their schools. Charter schools receive government funding but are privately operated. Just like public schools, they are required to educate any child who is enrolled unless the student is withdrawn, expelled, turns 21, or moves out of state. Allegedly, at least one school in the Success Academy system was doing whatever it could to force parents to withdraw kids they didn’t like.
The New York Times piece recounts the story of Folake Ogundiran, a mom whose kindergartener attended a Success Academy school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The six-year-old repeatedly received demerits and disciplinary action beyond what Ogundarian considered normal. She got in trouble for little things like not putting her hands in her lap, and her punishments always seemed unfair.
According to documents obtained by the Times, that’s because Ogundarian’s daughter was allegedly on a blacklist of 16 kids drawn up by the school’s principal and titled “Got To Go.” The list was a collection of kids that — for a variety of reasons — school officials wanted to weed out. The repeated disciplinary actions were reportedly part of a strategy to force Ogundarian and other parents whose kids were on the list to withdraw from the school.
This isn’t the first time Success Academy has been dogged by rumors that they’re trying to force kids out. According to the Times, the network’s stellar achievement record has long been rumored as the result of “weeding out weak or difficult students.” Current and former employees who spoke on the basis of anonymity say that’s true. One noted a principal who allegedly asked them not to send annual re-enrollment forms home with certain students because “the school did not want those students to come back.”
The thing about charter schools is they stake their existence on promising parents they can achieve better results given the same population as an “average” public school. That means that not only are they supposed to open their doors to all kinds of students, but they’re supposed to create equal opportunity and help all of those kids succeed. Forcing kids out so they can achieve better scores and ratings is cheating the system.
This particular controversy is local to a specific area, but it raises big questions about what goes on in charter schools around the country and how they maintain their sparkling image. The idea of a public school blacklisting little kids and actively trying to get rid of them is appalling and a complete misuse of their funding.
It’s one thing to find a new solution or a new school for a kid who just can’t seem to get with the program no matter how much time and energy is put into helping them. It’s another thing entirely to target kids and do everything in your power to force them out, no matter how hard they try. If that’s the kind of gross, discriminatory operation they want to run, I’m sure many parents would rather not foot the bill for it.