July 29, 2010 12:02PM

Foundations Need to Invest More in Private Education and Choice

Charter schools are the hot new thing.

OK, they aren’t all that new. But many people who used to have blanket objections to any increase in school choice now support (some form of) charter schools. President Obama, and even AFT President Randi Weingarten, say they support “charter” schools. The guy who made Al Gore’s documentary, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Planet, will soon release a film about choice and charter schools.

In the midst of the charter school hype, we need to remember that the private school system has been educating low‐​income kids longer, better, and more efficiently than charter schools. And charter schools are now sapping this tiny remaining redoubt of civil‐​society success and freedom in education.

Philanthropists who care about long‐​term, sustainable and dynamic improvement in the education system need to refocus. They need to pull back from the charter school mirage and invest in private school choice programs and private schools that are a proven, established success with at‐​risk children.

Fortunately, many philanthropists see the need to save private, often Catholic, schools for the poor:

Among his many achievements, [Robert W.] Wilson is the single largest benefactor of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York. Since 2007, he has donated over $30 million to inner‐​city Catholic education. He is also an atheist… Wilson belongs to an elite order: non‐​Catholic donors who are the patron saints of inner‐​city Catholic schools.

Read the whole article by Christopher Levenick in Philanthropy magazine. Public charter schools are often better than the regular ones. But charter systems are a pale government reflection of the legacy and possibilities found in private education.