If you have not taken time to read our major charter school debate with UK professors Wayne Lewis and Martin Solomon, you owe it to yourself and Kentucky’s children to take some time to do so. The professors provide a good introduction into the issues of establishing charter schools in Kentucky from the viewpoint of both a strong proponent of charters and a sharp critic of these school choice options for parents.
In any event, now that the professors have weighed in, I plan to add more to the discussion. And, I promise not to throw you out into the cold, as in the current Common Core “cold reading” edufad nonsense, by ignoring “outside” information about the issues. In fact, I will add a whole lot more to the debate points.
To start off, I think the professors talked around each other a bit.
For example, one of Professor Solomon’s main points was that charter schools are not public schools, a position Professor Lewis strongly protested.
I think Professor Lewis has the better case here. While charter schools most definitely are not “Traditional Public Schools,” charters still are public in the ways that matter to parents. For example:
• Charter schools are at least primarily funded with public money (charters do accept private donations, which also happens sometimes in public schools, too).
• Charter schools are free, open to students without any tuition charges.
• Charter school students must take the same state tests that traditional public school students take.
• Charters generally must accept all applicants until they reach capacity. After that, enrollment is based on a random lottery where every child has an equal chance of winning entry. Cherry picking of students isn’t allowed, at least under strong state charter school laws.
• At least under strong state charter school laws, charters cannot discriminate against minorities, the poor, and learning disabled students.
Let’s expand on that last bullet a bit. Demographic information from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress in Fourth Grade Mathematics shows that across the nation 11 percent of the students in the nation’s charter schools had learning disabilities and a not much larger 13 percent of all traditional public school students had disabilities.
In the same year’s eighth grade NAEP testing, the percentages of students with learning disabilities in charter schools equaled the traditional public school percentages.
So, the latest evidence shows charters are not discriminating against students with learning disabilities in any notable way.
However, all of this said, charter schools are still public schools. They are publicly funded, and they serve the public equally with an alternate education choice – controlled by parents, not the school bureaucracy – that currently is just not available in Kentucky.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how charters are actually even more accountable than traditional public schools.