We Don’t Need Unregulated Schools

Emilie McKiernan Blanton

Would you want to go to a hospital without regulations? Would you trust a lawyer who hadn’t passed the bar exam? No one would trust someone to be a doctor or lawyer without a degree, so why is there such a strong push to deregulate education? That’s what charter schools actually are; they’re unregulated schools. 

In the rush to privatize and incentivize every portion of education, corporations have attempted to whittle the profession of educator down as far as possible. Public schools exist to provide every student in the country with a free, public education in the least restrictive way possible. Recently, this has come with an increasing amount of so-called accountability as students are tested dozens of times over the course of their educational careers. Education as a right is being turned into a commodity by those who see our children as little more than products.

While corporations and the legislators they work with wish to present this as choice to parents, it results in inequity that furthers educational gaps. In fact, through rigorous application processes and expulsion, unregulated charter schools are capable of choosing who walks their halls instead of making their school beneficial for every student who wishes to attend. With policies like this, charters are capable of looking “successful” on paper instead of actually making progress with students. This level of deception is used to both turn a profit by leaving the expelled seats unfilled and bolster the name of the school as being “successful.”  These models that treat students as products lead to more punitive “discipline” in the school. While school systems such as Jefferson County Public Schools rally to implement restorative justice practices that acknowledge the humanity of children, these unregulated buildings punish children harshly for minor infractions. The students in need of the most help are often ostracized from the unregulated system and left traumatized by their “educational” experience.

One key argument for these unregulated schools is that they allow for more local control by cutting through “red tape” to create an educational experience driven by parents. In the commonwealth of Kentucky, we already have School-Based Decision Making Councils (SBDMs) thanks to the implementation of Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990. The creation and use of SBDMs is to allow local control of schools by parents, staff, and administrators. If the goal of charters is to imbued more local control in school, why have schools had their SBDMs removed following the audit process? Why not implement more structure and security surrounding SBDMs so that parents and communities can retain control of so-called struggling schools?

What we need to ask is why legislators, who are normally in favor of local control, are willing to give corporate institutions that remove the democratic voice of the people millions in public funding. Public schools have rigorous accountability and regulation that are meant to drive transparency and best practices. Our professional standards are implemented by administrators at the school level ensuring that students have the most equitable, quality education possible. We pass numerous assessments and certifications, as well as background checks, before setting foot into the classroom. As professionals, we are highly regulated and highly qualified for the positions we hold. 

The key to the deregulation of schooling is that these corporations aren’t concerned with children; they’re concerned with money. Since the implementation of unregulated charter schools, one billion dollars has been fraudulently spent on their wasteful implementation. Unregulated charters often have more money to spend per pupil through donations by corporations like the Walton Family Foundation that are generally against public education. If more money would improve schooling, and to be clear it would help tremendously, why don’t we apply that funding to public schools? What do these corporations have to gain by undermining public education?

We know that more funding works. We know that local control works. What we have to do is utilize the public system we have in place to ensure all students receive an equitable quality education. Education professionals should be at the forefront of creating policy because we are the ones who know our students the best. We always have our students’ interests at heart and work to defend their rights every day.

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