Twenty years ago, the charter school was born as an innovative strategy to reinvigorate and enrich public education. Dr. Gary Miron of Western Michigan University is quoted as saying, ‘Groups of teachers and administrators who wanted to innovate and try new things would band together and little laboratories of education would emerge… The idea was simple: anything valuable culled from these experiments could be copied by the district….’
Today, charter schools aren’t competing in the world of ideas and innovation as planned — they are now seen as an alternative to public education with which they compete for students and funding. For-profit charter school businesses often claim to be able to do more for less, but the facts show just the opposite!
National studies show that only 17% of charter schools perform better than traditional public schools, while 37% of all charters perform significantly worse than public schools! (The remaining 46% perform about the same.) Many states and districts are awarding charters and contracts to for-profit school operators that have shameful records of huge cost overruns and performance far worse than the schools they replace.
Charter school pioneer Joe Nathan said that charter schools were created by educators willing to put their jobs on the line: ‘If we can’t improve student achievement, close down our school….’ By this standard, 80% or more of charters would be closed—and the for-profit operators of failing schools certainly wouldn’t be granted new contracts at public expense.
Read these recent articles for a more thorough discussion:
- After 20 Years, Charter Schools Stray From Their Original Mission (by David Morris, in On the Commons)
- The ‘Separate But Equal’ Charter School Scam (by Sarah Knopp & Jeff Bale, on OtherWords)
- Charter Schools and Corporate Ed, a review (on Rethinking Schools blog) of the new book, Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover, by Michelle Fine and Michael Fabricant