Charter schools are frequently in the news but it’s hard to separate facts from myths -- how well do their students perform, how are they funded and how qualified are the teachers? For parents considering the best options for their children, the answers to these questions are critical in order to make an informed decision.
Perhaps most crucial is the question of whether charter schools do a better job of educating students than traditional public schools. The results of two recent rigorous studies conducted by Stanford University and The University of Arkansas demonstrate that alternative doesn’t necessarily mean better. In fact, both studies showed disappointing results in terms of test scores, one measure of a student’s success.
Qualifications of Teachers
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (called No Child Left Behind - NCLB in the Bush administration) has identified a very specific vision of teacher qualifications to which all students are entitled. Traditional public school educators are working hard to ensure that all students are taught by teachers who are considered highly qualified and certified, and they have gone the extra mile to meet the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's definition of "highly qualified." However, in the state’s charter school law, as many as 25 percent of teachers can be neither certified nor highly qualified in the content they teach.
Taxpayers Foot the Bill
Operating at both the elementary and secondary level since 1988, charter schools are financed with taxpayer money, not private assets. No tuition is charged to students; funds come directly from public school districts, further straining their resources, especially in struggling districts.
The Profit Motive
Educational Management Organizations (EMOs) operate many charter schools. While they are accountable for managing the administrative and educational functions of the school, they are also responsible for earning a profit for their shareholders or the principal owners.
Even non-profit ownership doesn’t guarantee that funds are well spent. Because of many abuses that have been reported, the FBI is investigating a large number of charter schools in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania legislature is also working to develop a charter school office on the state level that would investigate “complaints of mismanagement and misconduct, mandate annual training for charter board members, and require charters to make public their annual audits and administrators' salaries,” according to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on May 5, 2010.
One of the sponsors of the original Pennsylvania charter law, Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, was quoted in the Inquirer article as saying that it was appropriate to deal with "deficiencies that exist in the law that have allowed bad actors to abuse the system."
We invite you to download the CAPS’ position paper on charter schools or to view these links for more information.
Because charter schools are touted as one solution to the improvement issue, we encourage you to learn more and participate in a dialogue that can lead to genuine public school improvement. You can read research reports and newspaper articles and commentaries at: http://www.friendsofpubliced.org/more-information-about-charter-schools/.
Use the “Contact Us” form to share your thoughts and opinions.
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Certified Teachers and Charter Schools
Charter School Accountability
Cyber Charter Schools and the Need for Research
For Profit Charter Schools
More Information About Charter Schools