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It remains to be seen whether charter schools can improve education if the system of funding is not significantly reformed.

The new schools, while free from most state mandates, also may run headlong into a battle with teachers' unions and the state school board if they don't hire state-certified teachers. Yet it is certified teachers who have produced a 44 percent dropout rate among Hispanics attending public high school.

The ideology of charter schools assumes that the public school system as a whole will benefit from the successful example of a few. But critics say that if public schools are relieved of the burden of educating all children, the result will not be improved instruction, but educational Balkanization and a rapid disintegration of what is left of the public school system.

That is a chance that Hispanic-charter-school advocates are willing to take. Their frustration with the public school system runs deep, their faith shallow. And their idea of "all deliberate speed" does not encompass decades.

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