Money for charter schools exploded from about $32 million to about $659 million over a decade as Bloomberg increased their number from 17 when he took office in 2002 to 125 in 2010-11, the most recent year for which spending data are available.
Why on earth are we wasting our time with this public school stuff? Well, for one thing, we aren't very smart. Clearly the money is in running the charters, not teaching in them. Charter teachers are largely not unionized and subject to the caprices of their employers. I have not met a single student teacher who wanted to work in one except as a last resort.
And where does Mayor Mike get all that money to dump into charters? For one thing, he unilaterally denies teachers the 8% raise virtually all other city workers got between 2008-2010. And this is instructive. When the city pattern is crap, it's sacrosanct, and we have to give the sun, the moon, and the stars to better it. When it's attractive, it's screw you, you will take nothing and like it, and we'll also throw in a junk science evaluation system so you, like the charter teachers, can be fired for no reason.
Charter schools need the money, because they are amazing. What's amazing about charter schools?
Charter schools outperform public schools on many measures, but only 6% of their students are English-language learners, and just 9% of their students have special needs — much lower than the citywide averages.
It's pretty easy to run a school that looks good. All you need are the right students. Make sure you don't take the same mix the community has, which Eva Moskowitz opposed, and then say screw you all when they come to audit you, as Eva Moskowitz did. If that's not your cup of tea, you could just dump an entire cohort of kids, as Geoffrey Canada did.
It's fairly well known that it's harder to teach kids with learning difficulties and kids who don't speak English. It's less well-known that there are varying degrees of learning difficulties and English knowledge. If I were a charter school, I'd simply pick and choose those kids with the most minor problems, say I've taken my share, and leave the real problems to those awful public schools with the unionized teachers.
It's pretty simple, and if I had half a brain I'd get out of the teaching game and pull in the big bucks. Just like Eva and Geoff.