You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Learning Curve

  • Death knell for teacher unions?
    A California judge's ruling in a lawsuit challenging teacher tenure has anti-union forces (including Obama's secretary of education) crowing, but their celebration could be short-lived. An appeal is almost certain in the Vergara case and teacher
  • In defense of Indiana's effective teachers
    Stand for Children, a political advocacy group closely aligned with education privatization efforts, issued a report Tuesday critical of Indiana's teacher evaluation models.
  • Indiana: Still in the preschool cellar
    The annual survey of state-funded preschool programs laments the decline in state support during the past year. Even the states trimming pre-K investment, however, outperform Indiana, one of just 10 states that have yet to invest in early learning.

It's the money, stupid

More than a decade into Indiana's charter school experiment, people still ask what, exactly, are charter schools?

If I'm being charitable, I explain they are public schools authorized to operate without many of the regulations placed on traditional public schools, in exchange for greater accountability. But given Indiana's popular new practice of charter flipping -- turning a poor-performing charter school into a voucher school or hunting for a new, less-rigorous sponsor instead of shutting it down -- the accountability requirement is pretty much out the window. I don't think I'll even bother with that explanation any longer.

If I'm feeling less charitable, I explain that charter schools are an effort to weaken and destroy teacher unions. Charter operators hire primarily young, inexperienced teachers; work them to death and then decline to renew their contracts when they should be giving them raises.

But news of a symposium in New York today offers the best explanation yet. It's all about the money. "Bonds and Blackboards: Investing in Charter Schools" was the topic of the one-day symposium at NYC's Harvard Club. Here's the description: "A one-day symposium to help Wall Street – especially the tax-exempt bond market – understand the value of investing in charter schools and best practices for assessing their bond credit."

Yes, because it's all about helping Wall Street, right? Speakers included a representative from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; charter school investors Alliance Bernstein, Hamlin Capital and Nuveen; commercial bankers; bond underwriter RBC Capital Markets; and rating agency Standard & Poor's.

They at least had the decency to invite some representatives of the charter school sector, including the State University of New York, a charter authorizer. The educators are just the means to a lucrative end, of course. As we've discovered in Indiana, if they stand in the way of bottom line, they can be easily dispensed in favor of a more cooperative party.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at