The charter school advantage increases

Once considered an innovation, charter schools are now outranking even selective public schools (“Why it Matters That Public Charters Dominated the 2018 US News Best High School Rankings,” progressivepolicy.org, May 9).  As readers of this column know, I support parental choice.  But I’ve also written often about the tilted playing ground on which charter and traditional public schools play.

Let’s start with funding.  Although charters technically are public schools, they are exempt from financial oversight.  They are free to do virtually almost anything they want in awarding contracts on everything pertaining to their operation.  Traditional public schools lack such freedom.  In fact, some things that charters do would be considered criminal.

Charters in most states also can hire non-certified teachers.  Traditional public schools by law cannot do the same.  The best they can do is to issue temporary, emergency credentials when they can demonstrate the need.  I realize that a credential is no assurance of classroom effectiveness, but it is better than no evidence of competency.

Charters also retain the right to push out students who are disruptive.  They do so by subtly counseling parents to look elsewhere for the education of their children.  Traditional public schools must enroll all who show up at their door regardless of motivation or interest.  Once enrolled, expulsion becomes almost impossible.

Despite these unfair advantages, I expect to see charter schools proliferate in the years ahead.  Anger and frustration over the glacial pace of improvement in traditional public schools will fuel the change. The latest U.S. News & World Report rankings will only accelerate the growth of charter schools.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “The charter school advantage increases”

  1. Charters proliferate in the inner-city and other lower-SES areas because concerned parents do not want to send their children to chaotic neighborhood public schools. The concerned parents who send their children to the charters do not, for the most part, believe that the schools themselves — that is, the administrators, teachers, facilities, curriculum, support services — are better than those in the neighborhood schools. Rather, they do so because they believe — correctly — that the students in the charters will be better behaved and more oriented towards academic success than the students in the neighborhood schools.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: The wait list for charter schools in New York City, for example, is long because low-income parents believe their children will get a better education there. There are several reasons for their belief, but overall I agree that students in those schools are better behaved and the schools are safer. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more charter schools than any other system in the nation. They are expected to continue to grow dramatically in the years ahead.

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  3. My only question is: what happens to the children left in the neighborhood schools? How are their lives going to be improved when more public money is being spent on charter schools?

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  4. mathcoach2: That indeed is the weakness of parental choice. But I think it is a risk we have to take in order to give other students an opportunity to get a better education. The wait list for enrollment in charter schools, which contains large number of low income families, is growing. Can we deny them a better education as they see fit?

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