Peter Greene takes on the myth of market magic in this explainer on the charter sector in Memphis. He notes:
Nor are the schools well-distributed. Check this map and you’ll see that some neighborhoods have clusters of charter schools, while other areas of the county have none at all. It’s almost as if market forces do not drive charter businesses to try to serve all students, but only concentrate on the markets they find attractive! Go figure.
The problem did not happen overnight– a local television station did a story entitled “Charter Schools– Too Many? Too Fast?” back in 2017. The answer was, “Probably yes to both.” But it also included the projection that SCS would some day be all charter. It does appear that Shelby County is in danger of entering the public school death spiral, where charters drain so much money from the public system that the public system stumbles, making the charters more appealing, so more students leave the public system, meaning the public system gets less and less money, making charters more appealing, so students leave, rinse and repeat until your public system collapses.
Greene does note there is some good news:
Shelby County Schools is developing guidelines that would determine if a neighborhood has too many charter schools, addressing a longtime concern of school board members.
The charter school guidelines, called the Educational Priorities Document/Rubric in a proposed district policy on charter schools, would also prioritize what the district wants charter schools to focus on, such as early literacy.
Greene asks that we all watch to see if market magic remains the focus, or if some semblance of sanity returns to public education in Shelby County.
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