If you watched Education Nation at all, you heard the term "public school" bandied around quite a bit. Charter schools went to great lengths to say that they were, by golly, public schools after all. That they wanted the mantle of the word "public" but not the responsibility was implicit in their clear separation of charters and "traditional" public schools. They used the word "traditional" in the same way your family uses the word "special" to describe your crazy aunt who lives in the attic and thinks she's a goat.
Let's get it right. Charter schools are NOT public in any real sense. About the only way in which they could be considered public is the fact that they drain public money with their construction and lavish salaries for the likes of Eva Moskowitz.
Libraries are true public institutions. They are paid for by public monies, like charters, but that's where the similarities end. To get into a public library, you don't have to be selected in a lottery. Your mother doesn't have to apply. You don't even have to know how to read. Compare that to the Harlem Children's Zone, where you not only have to apply, but if you can't read well enough, they can kick out an entire grade.
Public buildings, like the stadiums Mayor4Life spent billions on (except not his billions) are more like charters. Take Citifield. It was paid for largely with public money. And while you have to win a lottery to get into a charter, you may need to win the lottery to afford a ticket to see the Mets. Yet, despite charging exorbitant rates, it is true that when you buy a ticket to see a ballgame, you are entitled to get in. It matters not whether you speak English, or whether you are considered disabled. That ticket guarantees you a spot.
Now for charters. They are paid for by public money, true, but most students can't get in. You can't buy a ticket to gain entrance. If you can't speak English or you have some learning disability, they rarely will take you. Imagine the lawsuit if the New York Public Library or Citifield refused entrance to non-English speakers or the learning disabled. People would be outraged if such a thing happened in a taxpayer supported institution. Nevertheless, charters manage to get away with such blatant discrimination.
I teach in a real public school. Students from everywhere are welcome regardless of what language they speak or what obstacles they face. No ticket needed. Not even a lottery ticket.
Perhaps it's time we started looking at charters as the "special" aunt of public education. But let's not tell them that they're not goats. We could use the milk.