Always Things to Write About on School Choice …
There is a letter to the editor from the Dean of the School of Education at Maryville University in this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch that disparages St. Louis’ charter school plan (I’ve expressed my own misgivings about the plan here).
The letter argues that charter schools are not the “magic bullet” of school reform and that, on average, they produce no measurable improvement in student success from that of public schools. As evidence, the letter cites the failure of charter schools in Ohio.
But I think that the letter misses the point. There is nothing that says that charter schools are inherently better than public schools (the so-called “magic bullet”). Some charter schools may be failures, it’s true. The factors that make for successful schools (leadership, teacher quality, parental involvement, etc.) are not guaranteed in the charter school model. But charter schools will expand parental choice. And that’s why the St. Louis program is a step in the right direction.
Competition produces better outcomes because it forces accountability to consumers. For example, I love Southwest Airlines and try to fly them exclusively when I travel. But just because I like to fly Southwest doesn’t mean that I think it should be the only airline available to me. The fact that Southwest faces competition ensures that they continue to offer (what I believe to be) superior service. The same thing would be true with charter schools. If people are happy with the public schools, there is nothing preventing them from staying in them. But the added competition from charter schools can only make them perform better.
So are charter schools going to solve the public school problem in St. Louis? Not necessarily.
But do they have the potential to make things better? Absolutely.
And that’s where I think the letter misses the point.