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.
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