In a moral society, “Single Payer” is the singular, optimal solution.

Steve Lopez says:  “…There’s a place for both [innovative, popular charters and regular district schools], and a need for greater support of all public schools”.

These are separate, and non-touching, concepts. The latter is a question of funding, more funding, being sent down the Education pipeline.  That is well, good and necessary. Learn more and sign the petition here.

But whatever you send down the chute, is what’s there in that chute.  When you set up a school system with that public money, what you’ve got is a “fixed margin” of monies:  that’s all you’ve got. The apportionment of monies within the system is “zero sum”: giving to Paul takes away from Peter.  Period.

There may be a place for both “types” of schools, but an innovative, popular school is what any and every child wants, nay deserves. There is no moral justification for isolating the offering. What is being asked by the charter school system, is a pass for allowing some to have more than others by pretending there is “Choice” involved. By privileging some at the expense of others.

This is why the conversation about charters is not and never can be about “excellence”. Never mind the uncomfortable truth that “excellence” will always be a subjective term no matter how much you paint it in quantitative metrics. Never mind the structural aspect to charters that is an inherent driver of segregation.

What Lopez is referring to in invoking funding in a democratic educational system, is Sharing Risk.

If you’re not willing to sanction better for some, or more funds for others; separate-but-equal doctrines or an inherent acceptance of structural disparity, then public education must be understood as shared, pooled risk. Just like health care.

The cheapest, most efficient way to share the risk of the high expense of health care is for everyone to be in one single insurance pool together. When you allow the healthy to isolate themselves in one insurance pool while the sick people are all relegated to a separate pool, everyone’s average cost for health care is very different. The sick absorb a disproportionate share of the nationwide healthcare bill with their higher average cost.  Which means that the sick absorb the cost of insurance against a rare, catastrophic adverse health event among the healthy. This is unfair. And our national conversation of late has come to reflect this understanding:  70.1% (+/- 10%? Hard to tell) of Americans now want to share the risk of health care.

So why are we separating out education risk instead of sharing it?

Just as with health care dollars, it’s not fair, and that’s all there is to it. Isolating services for one set of folks when resources are finite, means subsidizing one set at the expense of the other.

Average costs, or class size, are higher in one group than in another. And the risk of receiving lower cost, or class size, or “excellence” or “innovation” if you will, is subsidized by the highest-cost, underprivileged group.

And that’s before you start monkeying with the cost:benefit by, say, “creaming” kids (e.g., sending IEP kids back to district schools) or hiring young (TFA) or non-unionized workers (as are most charter school teachers) or skimping on costly school programs (PE, lunch)

The only way to justify superiority of resources for some at the expense of many, is by sanctioning structural subsidy of disparity.

And I don’t think we’re about that here in America.

Listen to yourselves, all you relatively-privileged young parents arguing that my child just happens to need small class-sizes, but yours may not, or my child just happens to need a flexible creative arts curriculum but yours may not or I’d be happy to send my child to a public school if only it were as “good” as yours….

You’re sanctioning segregation and structural disparity and responsibility for condoning a system of inferiority for some. And you’re doing all that necessarily, because education dollars are fixed.

There’s no “place for both [innovative, popular charters and regular district schools]…” because there’s no space for both because resources are finite.  One exists because, and only because, the other is forced to give way.

I’d like to believe in magic too, but there’s always a little man behind the curtain. Or someone paying attention to the math.