Everyone in the education community is talking about charter schools.  For the last several years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations have been touting the topic.  In fact, they have spent over $25 million in seven cities across the country to push the creation of more charter schools.

Most people would agree that the public school system is struggling.  Indeed, they may need some type of reform.  But are charter schools the answer?


Charter schools may not pay for transportation costs.
Image: Sean Farrel via Flickr

“The basic difference between a traditional public school and a privately run charter school is that with a charter school there is complete control of the school by a private enterprise within a public school district,” reads a Seattle education blog.

Along with these basic differences, there come some concerns.  One is that, being a private enterprise, there is no real oversight.  There will be no governing body checking up to see how things are going.

Another is that charter schools will probably not use unionized teachers.  They can pay them less, work them more and withhold benefits.  Many people think the destruction of teachers’ unions would be great.  They could get rid of bad teachers and pay them less.  Yet, most teachers work countless hours outside of school for which they are unpaid.  They also often buy classroom supplies with their own money with no reimbursement from their respective school.  Less pay may only make matters worse, especially in socioeconomically disadvantages areas.

Another concern is that charter schools will “cherry-pick” students.  They have the power to kick out any students who are failing, including ESL or special education students.  It all comes down to receiving higher test scores.

Finally, where will the money for funding these schools come from?  While our public schools are already underfunded, it will be up to taxpayers to foot the bill.


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Charter schools take the school district’s allotment of money provided for each student within the public schools system and use it to develop their programs. In many systems, they receive that allotment without having to pay for other costs such as transportation for students to and from the school.

Don’t students do better in charter schools, though?

According to a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent performed worse. Forty-six percent demonstrated “no significant difference” from public schools. Only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than public schools.

With odds like those, why take a chance?