New thoughts on Charter Schools….

Just took a long swim in my pond and feel restored—maybe to age…. 50?

I’ve been involved this past year in working with Steve Zimmerman, who has started two community-based charter schools in Queens. He’s helped me do some hard thinking about my divided loyalties.

On one hand I’m a fierce critic of privatizing K-12 schooling. Of course. And that includes all kinds of subtle forms of privatization and using public monies to make a profit off of educating young citizens. I’m also shocked by the many ways in which the corporate and philanthropic world has lied and cheated and abetted the growth of the “charter chains” which operate within the worst of all worlds. They are corporate-style operators with control resting in the hands of privately selected board members who live and operate worlds apart from the communities and families they make decisions for.

BUT. What about colleagues I know (like the late Ted Sizer) who started charter schools because, unlike me, no one in the public school world offered them a chance to have the kind of freedom I was given in NYC’s East Harlem or in Boston? The only way they were able to do what so many of us did during a certain period in NYC and Boston was to take advantage of charter law!!

Why can’t we go back to Shanker’s original vision and apply to ALL public schools the best lessons of the charter experiment learned over the last 30 years while avoiding the worst? Schools should be places which demonstrate that democracy and freedom needn’t be enemies.

What better way to teach democracy to young people then by placing them in the midst of self-governing, community-based schools within publicly set rules of accountability and transparency?

So I’ve joined my friend Steve Zimmerman and support his organization; CPICS, The Coalition of Public Independent Charter Schools. More about them and their plans next time I write. Meantime, you can contact CPICS directly by writing Steve at or visit the website,


PS: Privatization is being pursued by the Trumpists and must be fought tooth and nail. And charters and vouchers are part of their strategy. We need to be vigilant. Democracy is our means and end. I haven’t changed my mind about any of that.