WILL CHARTER SCHOOLS
SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION?
WHAT MIGHT the future look like if the charter movement prospers and spreads? In this final chapter, we explore that future, guided by a suspicion that the ideas underlying that movement are those most likely to renew and replenish public education in America.
Critics will allege that our vision of public education reborn is really public education entombed. They will cite the Vietnam-era blunder of destroying something while claiming to save it. They will contend that charter schools are a grand specimen of what is wrong with contemporary education reform, not a prime example of how to do it right.
No book will end this profound dispute. But the time for bold thinking is at hand. Public education in the United States is in grave danger, its function still worthy but its structures rickety. Americans believe deeply in the principle but are dismayed by its performance.
So potent is the press for change that even some of public education's strongest defenders have acknowledged that it has only a limited time to get its act together. The late Albert Shanker recognized that "Time is running out on public education.... The dissatisfaction that people feel is very basic." Former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare David Mathews concludes that "Americans today are halfway out the schoolhouse door." 1 Veteran education writer Anne Lewis acknowledges that "For the past 30 years, much of the disappointment with public schools has come about as a result of their failure to educate all students equally well.... [T]his is what parents are running away from." 2 School reformers Marc Tucker and Judy Codding observe that "Increasingly, the public does not believe that the people who govern, manage, and staff our____________________