I am not a fan of Charter Schools for reasons that aren’t relevant to postings about skepticism and science. One of my issues with them is that the appear to be not very well regulated. In fact, the basic definition of charter school is that they receive public monies and less regulation as long as they produce results (usually higher standardized test scores). The definition of a charter school, according to the National Education Association (NEA), is:
Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school’s charter.
NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.
This does not give them carte blanche to violate the constitution of the United States, specifically the Establishment Clause. A charter school in Michigan, the Byron Center Charter School, had this statement on their website (as recently as last week):
Byron Center Charter School cannot promote a certain religion, it can however, teach both creation and evolution as a theory, and use the Bible as a historical reference.
Let’s break down that sentence. Yes, the school cannot promote a certain religion. Several Supreme Court rulings say they can’t, so it’s good to know they understand the US Constitution. No, they cannot teach both creation and evolution as a theory, since only evolution is a theory and creation is fairytale based on not one single bit of science. And to use the Bible as a historical reference? Well, there are some historical references in it, but they are infrequent, and frankly wrapped into fairytales and myths. So, that sentence could be cut down to “Byron Center Charter School cannot promote a certain religion.”
Apparently, they have changed their website this week to remove the offensive, unconstitutional statement. But just because they removed it from their website does not mean that they’re not teaching creationism in clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I hope that the State of Michigan determines if they’ve been in violation of the law then shut them down.
As the NEA states, “Charter schools should be monitored on a continuing basis and should be subject to modification or closure if children or the public interest is at risk.” The public interest has been put at risk.