The recently settled teachers strike in Los Angeles contains lesson for other large cities (“A rift over charter schools,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 24). When charter schools first began there, they were welcomed because the Los Angeles Unified School District at the time was bursting with students. But that is no longer the case, as they continue to siphon off students whose parents for one reason or another are disaffected with traditional schools in the district.
As readers of this column know, I support parental choice. But I’ve written repeatedly that comparing outcomes of charter schools with traditional schools is unfair. A new study confirms this. Researchers sent emails from fictitious parents to 6,452 charter and traditional schools in 29 states. The email asked if any student was eligible to apply. It randomly assigned attributes about the student. For example, disability status, poor behavior record, high or low academic achievement. The goal was to determine if such schools discriminate against certain groups of students.
Even though federal law prohibits all public schools from discriminating on the basis of race, religion and disability status, charter schools enroll a smaller proportion of such students than traditional public schools. It’s interesting to note that so called no-excuses charters were 10 percent less likely to respond. What are they hiding? I maintain that if charter schools had to play by the same rules as their counterparts, there would be little differences in outcomes.
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