Thomas Friedman weighs in with this op-ed today about a lottery to enroll in a charter boarding school in Baltimore. Friedman's wife is on the board of the SEED Foundation, which runs charter boarding schools in multiple cities, and is opening the new one in Baltimore. The one in D.C. has, apparently, been quite successful, and the new school had 300 applicants for the 80 spots. Friedman attended the lottery through which enrollees were selected and argues that it's sad to see childrens' fates determined by ping pong balls - and that it shouldn't be this way (not in the sense that charter school enrollment shouldn't be determined by lottery, but in the sense that everybody should have access to a high-quality school).
I have a number of thoughts about the article:
1.) Boarding school. Interesting. Evidence seems to indicate that a lot of things about the home-life of inner-city students hold them back, so I guess this is one way to potentially overcome that. By my calculation, a student who attends 180 7-hour days of school spends about 14% of their time in school over the course of a year -- about 22% of their waking hours if they sleep 8 hours/night. A boarding school could potentially oversee kids for a majority of their time. I'd like to know more about how they use the extra time they have with the kids as a result of this set-up.
2.) Friedman reports that SEED schools are funded by both public and private funds. I know in most places that charter schools receive less funding per-pupil than other public schools, but I wonder how much money some of these schools raise from private sources and how their total funding (private + public) compares to other public schools in the district. If anybody has seen these figures anywhere, please let me know.
3.) I wonder how the parents of the children who applied to the lottery compare to others in Baltimore. Are parents who want to send their kids to a boarding school more concerned about their education, more eager to get rid of their kids, or no different from others?
4.) I agree that children's fate shouldn't be determined by a ping pong ball, but what's the solution? Obviously, high-quality schools for all; but is the SEED Foundation moving us toward this goal? We'll assume for the moment without further investigation that their schools are, in fact, wonderful places. Given this, are they replicable? Do we have the personnel and finances to replicate these schools for every student in Baltimore and other cities? I'm guessing not, but I'd also guess that not every student in Baltimore wants to attend a boarding school. In that case, can SEED schools be part of a system that provides excellent options for all? I don't see why not.