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Are Charter Schools the Second Coming of Enron?

In a research paper that’s spurring a national conversation, Preston Green III and co-authors outline the many parallels they see between today’s charter school systems and the early days of the subprime mortgage crisis, when aggressive business practices and unchecked growth created a national housing bubble that threw the country into deep recession.

Green, professor of educational leadership and law in the Neag School of Education, is concerned that, as with the subprime crisis, insufficient regulation could result in the formation of charter school bubbles: a concentration of poorly performing schools in urban African-American communities. Despite his concerns, Green remains a believer in the charter school concept. He insists that the paper he authored is not meant to be an attack on charter schools but rather an exposé highlighting issues of concern.

“What we are saying is that there should be a deliberative and thoughtful process in overseeing charter schools to make sure that the choices of parents and children are honored and, in the end, meaningful,” he says. The flip side of that scenario is daunting. “If charter schools aren’t sufficiently regulated,” Green says, “we could see a proliferation of poorly monitored schools in these communities. The proliferation of these poorly regulated schools could gather such momentum that it could be a while before people start to realize there are problems, and by then, it will take some time to dismantle all that.” —LORETTA WALDMAN


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