The Charter that ate the South

Justin Marcano, Views Editor

Ashley Chen | Views Layout Editor

The debate over charter schools has been raging for years now. With Trump’s nomination — and later confirmation — of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, it seemed that the domination of charter schools was looming on the horizon. This proved to be the case. A year later, with a 5-2 vote from the Orleans Parish School Board over winter break, New Orleans became the first major city with a district predominantly comprised of charter schools.

The National Wildlife Federation defines an invasive species as “any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy or even human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label ‘invasive.’”

With a bit of interdisciplinary thought, why couldn’t the same definition be applied to charter schools? Even further, couldn’t we compare charter schools to an infamous invasive vine that has torn apart the southern region of the country after being introduced at a New Orleans exposition in 1884? Specifically, kudzu.

The perennial vine grows very rapidly. The Kudzu’s tendency is to grow on and over native plants, killing any and every native plant in its path of endless growth. Charter schools—like their botanical counterpart—have done quite a bit of the same. As public schools have failed, charter schools simply take over control of the public schools it devours in their wake.

Kudzu and charter schools alike are hard to hold accountable. As kudzu have no natural predators, charter schools have a lack of oppositional control at the local level. According to the National Education Association, “Charter school boards are appointed rather than elected,” and are therefore susceptible to “weak oversight and a lack of transparency … because charter schools have been exempted from rules designed to protect students, families, communities, and taxpayers.”

As the ever-invasive charter school continues to spread its progeny across the United States, it is hard not to think of the exact method by which kudzu kills other plants. With its quick vines, the plant swallows its opponent whole and suffocates it, growing strong enough to uproot trees. As charters continue to spread their vines across our country, one might fear that they could eventually uproot the entire education system. Proper measures must be taken to protect public schools in order to prevent this.