Charter School Exits and Entrances
This is from today’s Post-Dispatch article about the imminent closing of two charter schools:
All agree that bad charter schools should shut down. But some local and state education leaders don’t understand why the universities have dallied for so long, and why they’re even giving these two another year.
One great thing about charter schools is that you can get rid of them. Sure, sponsors may relent and give schools another year to try to shape up. Legal quarrels may drag on for a few semesters. But if there’s no improvement, charters cease to operate.
The situation for traditional public schools is entirely different. They never go away. Consequently, they have less reason to try to do better. Not that every school needs the threat of termination in order to succeed. Most charters don’t come close to exiting because of poor quality (although some struggle to stay open in an adverse political climate). But the example of a few schools that lost sponsors is enough to keep all charters on their toes.
Charter schools face another incentive to maintain quality: Students can leave. Traditional public school students can sometimes leave, but only if they get into a charter or a magnet, or can afford a private school, or find another place to go. Every charter school student could return to the traditional district tomorrow if they wanted to, without applying or being put to any trouble. Some students in bad charters don’t avail themselves of the opportunity, but it exists nonetheless. It could be more important if there were more charters. Two or three abysmal charters can hold on to indifferent students for a little while, but if there were more than that, you’d see people returning to the district.