Charter Schools are in the unique position of being “publicly funded but can be privately operated.” This takes two of the biggest advantages of public and private education and merges them together, creating a system that traditional public schools aren’t able to compete with. The purpose of this post will be to explain how this merger of advantages creates an imbalance that further contributes to the teacher shortage.
Charter Schools address some of the causes of the teacher shortage, namely the lack of respect and freedom for teachers to practice their craft—problems that aren’t easy for traditional schools to fix. According to the San Diego Tribune, “Changing trends that favor charter schools reflect today’s more consumer-oriented parents, who want choices beyond the neighborhood school or the district magnet program.” Teachers take advantage of this benefit as well, seeing Charter Schools with philosophies that more match their individual style as a welcome alternative to traditional public schools, but the caveat here is that qualified teachers will leave the traditional schools in favor of their preferred Charter.
Discovery Charter School in Campbell, California presents a specific example of this alternative. From their home page, “Discovery asks families to make a commitment to the Discovery community and their child to volunteer in the school on a regular basis.” Schools that require parent assistance in class are very appealing to teachers as well as to those parents that are able to help in their children’s classroom, but this is very difficult for parents who work full time, and nearly impossible for poorer parents who have to work multiple jobs in order to afford living in the area. Parents that can’t manage to meet this requirement, or any number of other requirements that Charter Schools impose must take their children to traditional public schools. Charters are also in the unique position of being able to deny enrollment to children for any number of reasons, and a recent UCLA study has found that:
“More than 500 charter schools suspended black students at a rate that was at least 10 percentage points higher than the rate for white students. And moreover, 1,093 charter schools suspended students with disabilities at a rate that was 10 or more percentage points higher than for students without disabilities. The most alarming finding, the research points out, is that 235 charter schools suspended more than 50 percent of their enrolled students with disabilities.”
The ability to pull in the best students and the best teachers is obviously very appealing to both teachers and parents, but it drives teachers away from traditional public schools by making them the dumping ground for the poor, the disabled, those of color, and non-English speakers.
When a Charter School is established in an area, it draws funding away from that area’s other public schools. From the LA Times, “Charters’ rapid growth — to about 101,000 students in L.A. — is responsible for about half of a precipitous drop in district enrollment and the funding that comes with it.” The emergence of charter schools means a drop in funding for local schools in districts, which means that the districts have to make do with less—leading to larger class sizes, less funding for special education, and no room for wage teacher wage growth. This is not an ideal state for teachers to be in, and in their frustration, they either flee to the alternative schools, or leave teaching altogether.
Charter Schools seem to be an appealing alternative, but the problem is their appeal. They contribute to the teacher shortage by using the freedom of a private model, which draws talented teachers away from traditional public schools, thereby weakening them.