Actually, Charter Schools are Rather Good

A quality charter school education can often outperform their public counterparts.

A+teacher+oversees+reading+students+at+a+Charter+School+in+New+York+City.

Rafael Infante

A teacher oversees reading students at a Charter School in New York City.

America’s public education system has severe flaws. The quality of public education varies vastly from district to district, and often, it’s the only viable choice for parents. A bad public education could set up a student for an unsuccessful life. Charter schools have been a proven alternative to public schools and more charter schools should be established.

A charter school is a tuition-free school that is publicly funded but independently run. Governments sign a namesake charter stipulating requirements for how these schools operate.

Total Number of charter schools in the United States from 2000/01 to 2018/19 (Statista)

Schools aren’t cheap. Federal, state, and local governments spend over 700 billion dollars a year on public education. Charter School Operators have a direct incentive to run their schools more efficiently, and they are overall cheaper to run for the taxpayer.

The Center for Education Reform writes, “Nationwide, on average, charter schools are funded at 61 percent of their district counterparts, averaging $6,585 per pupil compared to $10,771 per pupil at conventional district public schools.” Charter Schools save over $4,000 per student annually, which is not a small amount. Critics of charter schools argue that this lower expenditure decreases the quality of education for students. However, a significant portion of the extra spending used by public schools is likely not necessary. 

For example, George Parker, a former union leader at a public school, writes in his editorial, “As I drove home, I thought about the $10,000 my union had spent to keep a poorly performing teacher in the classroom—not because she deserved another chance, but because of a technicality.” This sort of inefficiency contributes to unnecessary spending in public schools. With costs nearly 40% lower than public schools, charter schools help local governments struggle to pay the high costs of running public education. 

If charter schools lowered the cost of education without maintaining a good quality of education, they would not be an effective alternative to public schools. However, students from charter schools have higher academic performance than many of their public school counterparts. 

In Connecticut, students at charter schools scored nearly 15 percent higher on the English Language Arts section and nearly 13 percent higher in the Math section of the SBAC, compared to districts with similar populations.

93% of students at Connecticut’s public charter schools are students of color. (The Hill)

While it is true that some statistics conflict and show that Charter Schools may perform the same or even worse than public schools, this reason is not so compelling an argument when one considers that charter schools are provided with less money per student and can be terminated if they fail. Charter schools are delivering for students and parents on their primary goal, academic success.

However, there are also other positive consequences. Studies have shown that charter school students are more likely to vote once they turn eighteen, even when the school chooses students by lottery. Parents who desire to send their kids to a better-performing school can decide to send their children to a charter school. 

This leads me to my last point, that charter schools provide opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. If a child is born into a lower-income area with poor-performing public schools, they would be stuck in these schools unless their parents could afford the exorbitant costs of a better-quality private school. Without high-quality education, this child is predisposed to have a less successful life than more advantaged students. 

However, charter schools are a way for students to escape poor public education and answer students’ educational needs when neighborhood schools are not performing well. Although charter schools are not perfect and often perform worse than public schools in affluent areas, they provide a hopeful path for students in less affluent areas.

Enrolling in a charter school instead of a bad public school can change the course of a person’s life. (Dreamstine.com)

The bottom line is, while not perfect, charter schools are a proven and practical way to supplement our public education system.

 

 

Author’s Note: This article only shows one side of the charter school debate. In reality, things are more nuanced, and it is important to do thorough research before coming to a conclusion.