One line which has stuck in my craw lately, and I can't remember the source in the ed-policy blogosphere, was essentially "urban schools couldn't be worse," as in, we might as well try "X" because nothing could be worse than what we've got. This is a failure of imagination. It is easy to picture situations even worse than they are now. Here's one real world example to get you started:
Escambia Charter near Pensacola made about $200,000 by hiring out students to clean roadsides -- and the school falsified attendance records, course schedules and grade reports. Even though the school pleaded no contest to grand theft, it remains open.
Which is not to say I'm in favor of the status quo, or against charters. I'm just saying, things could be worse.