As Governor Haslam has lifted the ban on the number of charter schools statewide, we will see more charter schools forming. The reasons for allowing more charter schools are as numerous as the stars above but it is important to review some of the pros and cons of charter schools. *
Pro: Charter schools provide families with public school choice options. Parents will have the ability to choose the school best suited for their child.
Con: Charter schools, due to their small size and limited numbers, will provide only some families with public school choice options, thereby raising issues of fairness and equity.
Pro: Charter schools can act as laboratories of reform, identifying successful practices that could be replicated by traditional district public schools. Also, by waiving regulations in a limited number of schools, the most prohibitive policies can be identified and eliminated for all schools.
Con: Successful reform models such as New American Schools and Core Knowledge have already been identified. Why not attempt these reforms in existing schools? If rules and regulations are so burdensome, they should be waived for all public schools.
Pro: Through school choice, competition within the public school system is created, pressuring school districts to reassess their educational practices.
Con: Charter schools have an unfair advantage when competing against district public schools since they tend to be smaller and free from regulations. Charter schools have access to federal funds and other revenue sources.
Pro: Charters will lead to overall systemic reform through the pressure and competition of the choice mechanism.
Con: Charters are too limited in scope to adequately pressure the entire public school system.
Pro: Charter schools, unlike traditional public schools are held accountable. If charters do not perform, they are not renewed.
Con: Charters are not accountable as they are freed from rules and regulations intended to ensure quality in public education.
The pros and cons listed above should be studied and weighed very seriously. What works in one community may not work in another. What I have founded more fascinating than debating the pros and cons of charter schools is what is often overlooked; the role state legislators play with the expansion of charter schools. The majority of charter school arguments take place in legislative sessions (not at family dinner tables) since the programs that enable choice in public education are legislative enactments. Who you vote for (or don’t) determines what educational programs are received in your community. Too often, the communities that need the most educational options have residents who are least likely to vote.
One can have the best ideas and plans on how to educate your communities but how public dollars are allocated is determined by an elected official not the school and the families that make up that school. In order to help change the crisis in education, families must become more informed of educational choices and involved in school district issues. Parents must also be engaged politically by voting for individuals that have their family’s best interest at stake.
A child’s education, whether charter or public, is dependent on the family foundation, the skills of the teachers he or she encounters daily, the leadership of the principals, the effectiveness of the school district, community engagement and who write the laws in state legislatures. In order to have more positive outcomes surrounding the education of children, parents must do their homework on issues and make sure they are investing in their child’s future by voting in every election.
In 2012, the survival of public education will be determined by who is elected to the highest office in the land. But locals must give as much priority to state and county elections. They are equally important especially when it comes to education.
*Data compiled from NCSL Issues and Research.