The Thorny Charter Problem

The Thorny Charter Problem
February 19, 2014

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

School Choice Weekly #26

Charter school enrollment continues to steamroll the country, with a 7 percent increase over last year. That would bring charter enrollment to almost one in 20 U.S. kids. This means several things. First, the good news, from Reihan Salam:

The public charter school movement is entering a new phase. To put it bluntly, charter schools are finally becoming genuinely frightening to the powers-that-be in traditional public education, and for good reason. Charter schools have always been frightening to traditional public schools for the simple reason that they are granted wide autonomy to develop new instructional models, and most of the people associated with traditional public schools are afraid of change, or rather afraid of change that doesn’t involve increasing compensation levels. This is true of the people associated with most organizations, public or private, but public schools have long been shielded from the entry of new start-ups that leave them no choice but to start doing things in new ways.

Good for the market, good for kids …what’s not to like? Well, news from Louisiana, where over the past decade private school enrollment has fallen 5 percent statewide and 17 percent in New Orleans and Baton Rouge combined. Teasing out the depopulation effects of Hurricane Katrina reduces that to about 3 percent.

It’s hard to tell whether this slight decline is attributable to charters, especially given that the state’s voucher program for poor kids levels the government subsidies playing field some. That’s not the case in states without vouchers. Studies show that, without a voucher program, charter schools reduce private enrollment, which is already at a 50-year low.

That’s a problem for two reasons. First, it reduces the number and type of choices available to families. Second, private schools are better than both public and charter schools at inculcating academic achievement, citizenship, and character in students.

Charter schools certainly benefit lots of kids. Bravo for that. But don’t stop there.

SOURCES: National Review Online, The Times-Picayune


School Choice Roundup

  • WASHINGTON: The state’s first charter school serves children and families of “extreme poverty.” It’s run by a nonprofit organization that cares for homeless and destitute people.

Common Core Watch

  • ALASKA, KANSAS: These states are contracting with the University of Kansas to provide Common Core tests, rather than administering the federally funded Common Core tests. But will their tests be much different?

Education Today

  • INTERNATIONAL: The U.S. State Department began