Charters aren’t the answer

These "reform" activist cure-alls are more segregated and less successful than regular public schools

Topics: Education, ,

Charters aren't the answer (Credit: .sho​ck via Shutterstock)

Talk K-12 education for more than five minutes, and inevitably, the conversation turns to charter schools — those publicly funded, privately administered institutions that now educate more than 2 million American children. Parents wonder if they are better than the neighborhood public school. Politicians tout them as a silver-bullet solution to the education crisis. Education technology companies promote them for their profit potential. Opponents of organized labor like the Walton family embrace them for their ability to crush teachers unions.

But amid all the buzz, the single most important question is being ignored: Are charter schools living up to their original mission as experimental schools pioneering better education outcomes and reducing segregation? That was the vision of the late American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker when he proposed charters a quarter-century ago — and according to new data, it looks like those objectives are not being realized.

In recent years, major studies suggest that, on the whole, charter schools are producing worse educational achievement results than traditional public schools. For example, a landmark study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes discovered that while 17 percent of charter schools “provide superior education opportunities for their students,” a whopping “37 percent deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.” Likewise, the National Center for Education Statistics found that charter school students performed significantly worse on academic assessments than their peers in traditional public schools.

These numbers might be a bit less alarming if charters were at least making sure to “not be school(s) where all the advantaged kids or all the white kids or any other group is segregated,” as Shanker envisioned. According to a new report from the National Education Policy Center, however, charters “tend to be more racially segregated than traditional public schools” — and in lots of places, they seem to be openly hostile to children who are poor, who are from minority communities or who have special education needs.



A smattering of headlines from across the country tells that story. “Nashville Charter Schools Blasted Over Racial Imbalance,” blared a recent headline in the Tennessean. “Charter Schools Face Discrimination Complaints,” read the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Colorado Charter Schools Enroll Fewer With Needs,” screamed the Denver Post. “Charter Schools Enrolling Low Number of Poor Students,” reported the Miami Herald. The list goes on and on.

Some apologists might claim that for all their faults, charter schools are the solution to our education challenges because they are saving school districts money during tough economic times. But in many places, that’s not even close to true. Indeed, as evidence from Ohio to New Mexico to Tennessee to Florida to Pennsylvania suggests, charter schools are often more expensive than their counterparts, meaning taxpayers are paying a premium to underwrite a segregated system now producing worse academic results than traditional public schools.

Does this all mean that charter schools are inherently bad? Of course not; there are some terrific charter schools out there. However, the data do suggest that charter schools are not a systemic answer to America’s education crisis. In many cases, in fact, they make the crisis worse, not only exacerbating inherent inequalities, but also distracting attention from the real ills plaguing the education system — ills rooted in economic inequality and anemic school budgets.

Such challenges aren’t sexy, simple or politically convenient — but they are the true problems at the heart of our education system. No matter how many charter schools pop up, and no matter how often education “reform” activists pretend they are a cure-all, those problems will continue harming kids unless they are addressed.

David Sirota

David Sirota is a senior writer for the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Rose Jay via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Labrador Retriever

    These guys are happy because their little brains literally can't grasp the concept of global warming.

    Hysteria via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    German Shepherd

    This momma is happy to bring her little guy into the world, because she doesn't know that one day they'll both be dead.

    Christian Mueller via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Golden Retriever

    I bet these guys wouldn't be having so much fun if they knew the sun was going to explode one day.

    WilleeCole Photography via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Bulldog

    This dude thinks he's tough, but only because nobody ever told him about ISIS.

    Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Beagle

    This little lady is dreaming about her next meal-- not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Labrador Photo Video via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Yorkshire Terrier

    This trusting yorkie has never even heard the name "Bernie Madoff."

    Pavla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Poodle

    She is smiling so widely because she is too stupid to understand what the Holocaust was.

    Aneta Pics via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Boxer

    Sure, frolic now, man. One day you're going to be euthanized and so is everyone you love.

    Dezi via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    French Bulldog

    He's on a casual afternoon stroll because he is unfamiliar with the concept of eternity.

    Jagodka via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Rottweiler

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be this care-free? But we can't because we are basically all indirectly responsible for slavery.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>