MHP @ MSNBC Education Nation: When data gets in the way of choice ideology


Today, at the end of the first segment of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show at MSNBC’s Education Nation 2012, my brief (alter)cation with firebrand journalist Jonathan Alter went something like this:

Alter: Its folly to cap charters schools— silly NEA. What are you thinking?

Vasquez Heilig: Here’s why. Because according to a Stanford study (conducted by CREEDO, a traditionally conservative think tank ) 83% of charters across the nation do not perform better than traditional public schools.

I then went on to discuss the Texas charters and KIPP study published in the peer-reviewed journal Berkeley Review of Education. I have previously profiled our study, KIPP’s response, and my response to their response. See the entire KIPP thread here.

Anyways, why let data get in the way of ideology?

There is also some backstory about why we even studied KIPP and African American dropout and attrition. However, I can only tell you in person and not on national TV, so ask me next time you see me.

There are amazing charters… there is no doubt. Two of my favorites are Making Waves and University of Texas Elementary School. If anything, these successful charters demonstrate that money does matter. They are able to spend thousands of dollars more on their students compared to traditional public schools. As does KIPP (KIPP Austin—$17,286 versus Austin ISD—$10,667) kudos to them for that! Note to Texas Legislature: Cutting $5.3 billion from schools these past two years=terrible public policy. See our study of school finance and majority Latina/o urban elementary schools here.

**Edit** 9/25/2012 One the students in my Fall 2012 school reform course wrote today in a reflection:

Public facts are shared by many people in a society who have no, or very little personal knowledge. This limits the scope of a social issue.

**Edit** 8/2/2012 See this blog post from Jersey Jazzman on Alter’s head popping off.

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Categories: Charter Schools, KIPP, School Finance

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

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12 Comments on “MHP @ MSNBC Education Nation: When data gets in the way of choice ideology”

  1. Educational Researcher
    September 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    During the 2007-2008 school year, the U.S. spent nearly $600 billion on total expenditures for elementary and secondary education (NCES, 2011). When corporations (nearly all open-enrollment charters are required to be 501 c(3)s in Texas) accept revenues from both private and public sources, can Johnathan Alter really claim that they are not trying to “make a buck”? Are these corporations willing to educate children for free?

  2. Trish
    September 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm #


    Good for you. I saw Alter get all huffy when presented with the facts, and that was a metaphor for everything. White man’s burden of privatization cloaked as altruism–when challenged with facts and data–becomes nothing. Hence Alter’s anger. Keep doing the good work.


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