What the Critics Are Saying
My last post responding to charter school criticisms elicited even more criticisms, so it’s time for another installment in the series. The following ideas have been expressed in the comments on this blog and around the Internet. I’ve included my arguments in favor of charters:
Charter schools need to prove they’re good enough before they receive public money.
Charter schools are public schools. It may look like they do things differently, but that’s just because they’re more willing to experiment than the traditional districts. Charters don’t do anything that’s illegal for a non-charter public school to do. Your run-of-the-mill public district could behave like a charter if it wanted to (or, more accurately, if it faced similar incentives to improve).
It’s not right to hold charters to a much stricter standard than other public schools. No one says, “SLPS isn’t meeting expectations — no more state funding for SLPS!” And we shouldn’t tell that to charters either. If anything, traditional districts should be held to a higher standard than charters, because kids can be forced to attend traditional districts if they have no other options, whereas no one need attend a charter school. Charter school students are free to return to their traditional district schools at any time, if their families aren’t satisfied. There’s no comparable check on the district.
Some charter schools don’t do as well as traditional districts on state tests.
Some charter schools are good. Some, from the vantage point of standardized testing, are less than stellar. No reformer expects charters to be uniformly excellent. The good news about bad charters is that word spreads and people aren’t eager to get into them. If they can’t attract students, they close — a mechanism to root out the bad that never applies to traditional districts. In practice, most charter schools improve in order to avoid exiting the market. They may do so by hiring new leadership, or learning from more successful charters.
Charter school supporters are just interested in reducing the tax burden.
As I mentioned above, charter schools are public schools. Students who enroll in charters aren’t leaving public education — they’re switching to a different kind of public school. In the long run, I suppose it’s possible that charters could help reduce the tax burden, if they are able to educate students more efficiently than the wasteful traditional districts. That would be great if it happened, but it’s a long way off. I, for one, am interested in charters because they can help kids now, not because of any potential tax savings in the future.
Feel free to disprove any of my arguments in the comments — or to bring up new objections and give me a head start on my next charter school post.