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.
Now that the professors have weighed in, I’ll be adding more to the discussion. I started yesterday with a blog about how charter schools definitely are public schools in the ways that are important to parents. Today, I’ll touch on some ways charters are actually even more accountable than traditional public schools.
Here are just a few examples of charter school accountability to the public:
• Charters are fully responsible not only to state education agencies but also to the organization that charters them, which usually is a local school board, a university or a non-profit corporation formed to create and oversee the charter school. Charters get no less, and often much more, direct attention than traditional schools receive.
• Charters can, and are, closed when they fail to perform. That is almost unheard of in the traditional public school world, where even the worst-performing schools go on and on, creating terrible educations for the students entrapped there.
• And, charters do vary from traditional public schools in one very important, parent and student friendly way – they offer a school choice to parents and students without the expensive need to change the place a family calls home.
• Along those lines, if a charter does not meet a student’s needs, that student can leave to find a better educational fit. That is hard to do in most traditional public school situations.
Let’s expand on that middle bullet some more.
The graph above from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
shows that while hundreds of new charter schools have been added every year over the past half-decade, there also have been notable numbers of charter school closures, as well. For example, the National Alliance web page shows in the 2012-2013 school year alone, 206 charter schools were shuttered after failing to meet their obligations as a public school. Across the 42 states with charter schools, that averages out to almost five school closures per state.
Over the full five-year period, the National Alliance says 882 charters have been shut down. That is an average of 21 schools per state with charters. These closures were made for a number of reasons including fiscal issues as well as poor academic performance, by the way. Clearly, the idea that charters are not accountable is being disproved constantly.
By the way, how many traditional public schools in Kentucky have been closed for failing to meet muster in the last five years? I can think of only one middle school in Louisville, and there is speculation that the closure was really driven by the school district’s desire to use the facilities for another purpose. Essentially, the district is just moving students and teachers to another building. That does not seem to offer much hope for improvement, but it will hide poor performance of the students for several years in the state’s accountability system.
That wouldn’t necessarily happen if Myers were converted to a charter school. But, we first need a law to allow us to convert such schools into something much better.