Recently, the Superintendent of the Hickman Mills School District and officials from the Columbia Public School District spoke out against HB 634, which would allow the expansion of charter schools throughout the state. In their statements, they repeated familiar claims that charter schools cherry-pick students, they drain money from public schools, and they are not held accountable. These assertions, while common, have been refuted by research (see the links at the end of this post). But a resolution approved by the Central R-III School District’s Board of education voiced a different concern, warning that:
if the legislative body allows charter schools to expand into the Central School District, taxpayers within the community would have no say in whether a charter school is needed and, furthermore, money would be consequently removed from classrooms due to increased overhead and operating costs.
So how likely is it that charter schools will start appearing in communities whose residents see no need for them? Not very. Charter operators seek to open schools in areas where there is a clear demand, to ensure that the schools have enough students to enroll.
In my recent paper on charter school expansion, I referenced a survey of high-performing, national charter management organizations which examined their approaches to expanding into a new area. The report containing the survey explains:
These CMOs [charter management organizations] learned that networks must deeply and meaningfully engage a new community to understand its needs and concerns, build partnerships from the ground up, and be prepared to repeatedly explain the work of the organization. This often requires a long window of time to build relationships and establish credibility. Otherwise, many communities view national operators as outsiders and a threat to the local education ecosystems.
Even if HB 634 passes, charter schools are unlikely to appear in districts like Central, Columbia, and Hickman Mills before charter operators gauge the interest in those communities.
Those who are satisfied with their public school and district should not worry about a charter school “invading” their community. But neither should they assume that because they are satisfied with their public school, charter schools are unwanted or not needed elsewhere in the state. Far too many kids in Missouri are stuck in failing schools and deserve the opportunities new charter schools can offer.
For more information:
“Student Selection, Attrition, and Replacement in KIPP Middle Schools.” Available here.
“Is there Empirical Evidence Consistent with the Claim that Charter Schools ‘Push Out’ Low-Performing Students?” Available here.
“Charter School Funding: Missouri.” Available here.
“A Closer Look at the Charter School Movement: Charter Schools, Students, and Management Organizations, 2015-2016.” Available here.