Why can’t we just implement what works in charter schools in public schools?

Written Feb 8

Generally, charter schools are not a better option than public schools, and do not provide better solutions. (This discussion applies to the US).


Let me explain.

Charter schools are funded in the same manner as public schools. Most of the funding comes from property taxes. Most schools, and school districts also receive money from the federal government to support federal programs. Consequently, charter schools, just like public schools, are required to meet local, state, and federal standards (think Common Core and standardized testing).

Therefore, while charter schools are given some autonomy (such as not having to hire union teachers), they are still confined to the overall sraightjacket that is the US educational system.

Furthermore, charter schools are often a business, run by for-profit companies. They generally do not provide programs for special-needs students. Since public schools are required to do this, and as more “good” students are drawn to charter schools, the student body of public schools tends to become “diluted”, and this culminates in the comparable public schools’ performance decreasing. In fact, it is not the performance of the school that is decreasing – it is a change in the mix of the student population that is causing a reduction in test scores.

I came across some interesting research that indicates, once you adjust for various factors, the academic results of public, private, and charter schools are essentially the same. (If anyone is particularly interested, I will try and find the studies). In summary, the main discriminator between “good” and “bad” schools is the socioeconomic status of the families.

Therefore, unless a school can work outside the framework of local, state, and federal laws and regulations (for curriculum, pedagogy, etc.), variations in traditional public and charter schools is just tinkering at the edges.

In my view, the optimum method to achieve fundamental change in the US school system is to allow our teachers autonomy to teach in a manner that they determine is best for their students.

Since I am not optimistic that this kind of fundamental change is going to happen soon (and because good alternatives – like the Sudbury Valley system – are not available in our area), I have chosen to homeschool our daughter.