This past week was National Charter Schools Week. During this week charter school proponents rally, and advocate in support of charter schools. One has to ask the question: Why does such a thing require an advocacy week. Who is against them?
Quick refresher: Charter schools are publicly funded privately ran educational institutions that cater to families who seek options outside of the traditional public-school model. Many of them are innovative and have higher success rates than their traditional public-school counterparts. To be against such a concept is to transparently say I think every school is right for every student … or, more specifically, every student who can’t afford a private alternative should continue to attend a failing school.
Almost every stakeholder has a vested interest in charter schools:
Students should like the idea of charter schools because in a traditional public-school model if a kid struggles or doesn’t like their school, there really isn’t much alternative.
Parents should favor charter schools because it gives them another free option for educating their child should they take issue with the school’s performance, curriculum, hours, or even offerings in extracurriculars. Whatever the reason, there is somewhere else you can go.
Teachers should want charter schools around to provide another buyer of their labor. Even if they never teach outside of the traditional public-school model, forcing schools to compete for quality teachers typically raises the asking price.
Conservatives should support charter schools because they favor economic models that encourage competition.
Progressives should favor charter schools because, historically speaking, traditional public schools have been complicit in the oppression of marginalized groups. Some would argue they still are.
To be clear, most stakeholders do in fact support charter schools. According to a recent opinion tracker by EdChoice, support for charter schools is almost “four times higher than opposition.” If you dig into other polls, you will find that support exists among all races, socio-economic groups, and both parties.
So, who are those that oppose it? The answer: People who want to maintain the status quo. These are people whose power rest in the monopoly of public education.
These people are easy to spot because they usually lead off their argument with money. Students who attend charter schools take their headcount money with them and public schools feel like that money is their birthright. So, they frame the loss of students as a loss of funding to make people feel like it is some miscarriage of justice. (Never mind the fact that charters don’t receive any of the property tax money that they do.)
You would think that schools in danger of losing students would raise their quality or offerings in an attempt to keep kids, but instead, they lobby and advocate against your ability to have a choice. Because it’s not about the kids; it’s about the money. And at the end of the day, they are afraid you won’t pick them … a fear no good school has ever had.
So, if you are unfamiliar with the charter school debate, tune out the noise. No matter who you are there is some scenario you can envision where you would want there to be more than one school option. One side wants you to have that … the other doesn’t.