The CTA’s ongoing charter school whoppers

Charter schoolWashington Post writer Jay Mathews is “woke” to the fact that the California Teachers Association lies.

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Jay Mathews has been around the block a few times. He has been with the Washington Post since 1971, and for many of those years he has written about education issues, often arguing for sensible reforms. Which is why I was stunned to see a Mathews’ headline last week which read, “Maybe this teachers union needs a crash course in truth in advertising.” Seems that the venerable scribe was perplexed and angered by a radio spot run by the California Teachers Association in which the union does its usual – lies, exaggerates, builds strawmen and tries to elicit gasps out of everyone within earshot.

The basic premise of the ad is that evil right wingers Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos and the Koch Brothers see your seven year-old as a cash cow and want her to go to “their corporate charter schools” to make them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

CTA business as usual here, but if Jay Mathews is now woke, I guess that’s a good thing.

Mathews also may have gotten a jolt if he saw a recent post on the CTA website in which the union informs us that Tony Thurmond, their candidate for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, will be holding a tele-town hall on May 9th. Alluding to Thurmond’s opponent Marshall Tuck, CTA claims “… corporate billionaires are pouring millionsinto the races of candidates who share their agenda to divert funding away from neighborhood public schools to privately-run charter schools.” In fact, Tuck is adamantly opposed to privately run charters and has stated so many times, claiming, “Profit has no place in our public schools….”

If he hasn’t already done so, I would advise Mr. Mathews to visit a website established by CTA in 2016 called Kids Not Profits. In addition to the exaggeration about the privatization of charters (less than 3 percent in California are), it includes the time-worn fantasy that charters “cherry-pick their students” and weed out students with special needs.

In fact, as R Street Institute’s Steven Greenhut writes, the opposite is true. Using information from a report by ProPublica, an organization whose focus is investigative journalism, Greenhut found a national pattern in which public school districts have used alternative schools, including charters,  as a “a silent release valve for high schools … that are straining under the pressure of accountability reform.” These public schools dump off weak students “whose test scores, truancy and risk of dropping out threaten their standing.”

So just who are the cherry pickers?

Also, parents who have kids with special needs are prone to send their kids to charters. For example, the mother of a child in Florida, who has “oral motor delays, including extreme feeding difficulties” could not find a traditional public school (TPS) that could accommodate her daughter and found a charter school that could.

Looking at the bigger picture, there have been a gaggle of studies comparing student achievement in charters and TPS. Most studies give the edge to charters to varying degrees. But even if charters do the same job as TPS, charters should be deemed preferable as they do it by receiving, on average, 28 percent less funding than TPS.

Additionally, a revealing new study conducted by Patrick Wolf, Corey De Angeles, et al shows that in eight big American cities, each dollar invested in a child’s k-12 schooling results in $6.44 in lifetime earnings in public charter schools compared to just $4.67 in lifetime earnings in TPS.

That traditional public schools dump kids into charters, frequently can’t handle kids with special needs and don’t give students the same bang for the buck as charters are realities that CTA and other teachers unions either omit or lie about when they push their anti-charter agenda.

One other tidbit not discussed by CTA is that charters are less likely to be unionized than they were six years ago. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found that 11.3 percent of the nation’s charters in the 2016–17 school year were unionized, down from 12.3 percent in 2009–10.

That Jay Mathews has awakened to the prevalent dishonesty of the teachers unions is encouraging. As we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, I only hope more mainstream media writers follow suit and aggressively expose teacher union mendacity.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center.


  1. The CTA in my opinion is one of the worst and most corrupt unions in the nation, right up there with the SEIU! Corrupt and rotten to the core!

  2. Bogiewheel says

    “Profit has no place in our public schools….” This is the most truthful
    statement in this article………The profit lost is the lack of education for California school children. The profit, actually, goes to the unions and
    administrative somnambulism

  3. Rottweiler says

    These progressive mills have no function anyhow. Public education is such an agenda of useless thoughts (easier to control the masses of non-thinkers), I find entertaining what they churn out laughable. Especially since the new standard is “D” passing for graduation. How endearing to give us useless and non-productive people who will eventually be smoking pot 24/7 due to life’s stresses.

  4. retiredxlr8r says

    Again and again, I’ll say, a teachers “union” or any public employee union that can politically solicit candidates and votes is unethical and therefore they are illegal.
    So, you have lies, which are really common knowledge to those educated before the 70’s, and you have corruption.
    When teachers can purchase a candidate of whom they will follow up on for increased salaries and benefits funded by taxpayers that’s got to be an illegal act!
    For the time and effort, education and application, teachers are well paid with benefits far exceeding the average professional.
    Charter Schools and Vouchers we need them now!
    Sacramento legislature needs to decertify public employee unions, but I know not a one of them has the integrity and character to do it.

  5. True Teacher says

    Larry, I always risk my livelihood when I express thoughts about public education, but some things just have to be said.

    Today I have been searching the Internet for the names of former administrators in the district where I teach and found them in new districts. But I could not but help noticing, again, all of the job titles of the other, various, district administrative positions where these former colleagues now serve. The titles of these positions are so foreign to the actual delivery of education; I do not know how the public puts up with this expensive and expansive bureaucratic growth. And I cannot for the life of me think of anything these people have done to better education in a state near the bottom in 4th and 8th grade scores.

    What I see is just a large drain on public funds. I wonder if any of these people really believe their mission is of value; or is it just a matter of, “I have a mortgage, a family, and the money is there so I might as well go for it.”

    As I surf the pages, I cannot help but think that we are far too overfunded. Something must be done to stop this. We are feeding a disease that keeps growing, and it is killing all of us, most especially the student who comes to school, having all F’s in 9th grade, and who says, “I’m having fun.”

    This is why I root for charters. And yes, I need to get out without committing financial suicide. The disease rejects the antibiotics of choice and charter; it rebels against it. It fights for its own survival against the cure.

    The beast must be starved.

    • Larry Sand says

      I agree with all you say, True Teacher. But starving the beast is unlikely, at least in the near term. I suggest that you take your articulate message public — speak about it, write about it, share your experiences. Until the general public wakes up to the fact that more bucks won’t solve anything, we will continue to flush money down the pub ed drain.

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