Charter schools are frequently in the news, but it’s difficult to separate facts and myths. For parents considering the options for their children, the answers to these questions are critical to make an informed decision.
How well do charter school students perform?
How are the charter schools funded?
How qualified are charter schoolteachers?
Most importantly, do charter schools do a better job of educating students than traditional public schools? The results of two recent studies conducted by Stanford University and The University of Arkansas demonstrate that alternative doesn’t necessarily mean better. Both studies showed disappointing results in terms of test scores, just one measure of a student’s success.
Qualifications of Teachers
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act) has identified a specific vision of the kind of teacher qualifications to which all students are entitled. Traditional public schools work hard to ensure all students are taught by teachers considered to be highly qualified and highly certified—often going 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 has investigated a large number of charter schools in Philadelphia and some of their operators have been prosecuted and even jailed.
One of the sponsors of the original Pennsylvania charter law, Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola, was quoted in an 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.”
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 here.