While some claim that charter schools will be the saving grace of the education system, many claim that they are ineffectual, and they end up taking funding away from traditional public schools. Teachers deplore their presence, which offers lower pay and no union, and charter schools seek to further widen the gap between those that have, and those who don’t.
Chart shows declining positive impact of charter schools through time.
Researchers have found that, despite the apparent allure of charter schools, their performance is lackluster at best. According to a Stanford supported study, there was no significant difference in student performance in math or reading between charter schools and traditional public schools, and in some cases, performance went down, especially as time went on. So why are these schools growing so rapidly?
Supporters of charter schools point to their innovative nature as evidence that better than traditional public schools, but that myth is dispelled when the data is actually looked at. Barack Obama spoke about a charter school in his 2013 State of the Union speech, stating “At schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools and City University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering. We need to give every American student opportunities like this.” This school sounds like a great idea to many, and this kind of positive attention gave IBM the confidence to continue funding for the group despite there not yet being any results—these schools now exist across the nation. Reality, however, was recently brought to light by NPR when they said “In fall 2014, P-TECH told NPR, 21 percent of grades earned by its students in college courses were D’s and F’s.” This school’s failure should serve as a warning that private industry does not necessarily know what is best for education, and that education policy is something which should be approached with care and caution, not treated as a bold experiment on the youth.
Many teachers don’t like the fact that not only are charter schools allowed to use the public’s money with very little oversight, they can use this money to pay their teachers less than traditional public schools. Often times, charter schools offer teachers what is known as “performance pay.” According to a Center for American Progress study, charter schools use more performance pay than any other school type. Some schools use a pay formula that involves paying teachers based on the school’s performance, which gives teachers incentive to weed out “bad students,” making not only their job easier, but their pay increase. These students, which include students with learning disabilities and english language learners, get to go to the public schools, depreciating their value.
Many hold negative views about charter schools that trump their few mild successes, but no aspect is viewed more negatively than the hypocrisy that allows charter schools to take public funds, but be as selective about their students as private schools. A Washington Post article highlights this issue by saying “Selective admissions in charters — which aren’t supposed to have them — is one big part of a growing narrative about public schools that critics say show that they act more like private schools, albeit with public dollars.” These schools favor English speakers, do not have the facilities to serve students with special needs, and expel students with discipline problems more often than traditional public schools. More often than not, students with discipline problems, or those who do not perform as well in school, tend to be students of color, or poorer students whose parents work multiple jobs and have little time to reinforce good study habits at home.
The reality of charter schools is that they perpetuate a stratification of the quality of education by kicking out the students who are in need of the most help, leaving them to the traditional public system, which has also lost good teachers and funding to the charter school system. The public education system exists to close the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged people, but with charter schools, this is no longer a possibility.