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Charters Spread to the UK

The Schools Matter website recently posted an interesting analysis of the implications of Arne Duncan’s current visit to the UK to support their new Conservative government’s implementation of the charter school model (called “free schools” there) and teacher evaluation reforms.

A few highlights from the post and the Guardian interview with Duncan that it was based on:

On the same day of Duncan’s visit, Gove announced a £110 school initiative aimed at turning around “underperforming” schools. Sound familiar? It’s modeled, says Gove, after the Race to the Top. And, like the cutting of food stamps to pay for the $10 billion education aid while staving off cuts to two prized pots of cash, RTTT and TIF, this £110 investment was made by cutting back on extensions to the free lunch program.

Michael Gove’s education department failed to invite applications for a £500,000 grant to assist parents setting up free schools, before awarding it to his former adviser. The New Schools Network, a charity and company run by the education secretary’s former colleague, Rachel Wolf, 25, was awarded the grant by the Department for Education in June. No other organisation was asked to bid for the work, which was not publicly advertised.

The schools, which are independent of local authority control, will allow groups to create more autonomous schools with small class sizes, Gove argues, though critics say they could wreck social harmony by creating ethnic or religious enclaves. [Note: unlike charters, free schools may admit up to half of their students based on religion.]

As we in New York City go through our own debates about where the money for charters and testing will come from, how lucrative education-related contracts are being distributed, and what types of students and communities charters serve, it will be worth keeping an eye on the British experience.