Yet More Growth in the Charter School Population

Vol. 15 No. 5

trustees eletter vol15 no5 charterschool

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools supports and lobbies for charter schools at the state and federal levels. The organization’s latest annual report indicates that more than three million students now attend public charter schools. That’s nearly three times the student population of a decade ago. There are now more than 6,900 charter schools in the United States. Clearly there has been demonstrated growth in that sector.

With the confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is a strong supporter of choice and charter schools, the upward trend is likely to increase. As a longtime philanthropic advocate of school choice in Michigan, she had a significant influence on establishing the charter school movement in that state. In her new position, she is likely to push for a reversal of government overregulation that currently impedes the charter school movement. She may also improve the federal grant program for charter schools, freeing up more funding.

According to the report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, one in 10 of those parents surveyed would select a charter school as the first choice for their children. Considering public charter schools are “free,” many private schools see this as a threat. If parent perception is that a charter offers a private-school-like education at no cost, how can a tuition-charging independent school compete?

This fear is largely unsubstantiated. Most charter schools represent little or no threat to private schools. More than 300 charter schools opened this school year, but there were also 211 closures. Some reasons for the failures included lack of funding, poor academic performance, and low enrollment. A public charter school may have a stronger program (e.g., a music or arts focus) than its public school counterparts, but it still suffers government mandates and restrictions. It is still a public school.

As we’ve pointed out in earlier discussions about school vouchers, choice programs are often hamstringed by government regulations. Any school funded by taxpayers must follow all the state and federal laws that to apply to public education. In short, charter schools are generally more accountable to the government than they are to parents.

True, Betsy DeVos may be able to relieve the regulatory stranglehold to some degree. But most charter schools are established to meet the educational needs of impoverished public school districts, particularly the needs of inner-city children, and strong charter schools serve a purpose in that regard. But those families are typically not your market. And most charter school programs can’t compare with the mission-driven, student-centered programs provided by private-independent schools. Recent research performed by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Charter School Growth and Replication, indicates that high-performing charter schools are in the minority.

Could you possibly lose students to a local charter school? Perhaps. But if you maintain your marketing focus on those families that are best served by your unique mission—and continue to provide a quality education and personalized support for students—charter schools will have minimal impact on your school.

Additional ISM resources
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 8 No. 1 Union Contract Forces Charter School to Make Cuts
The Source for Trustees Vol. 14 No. 4 The Caveats of Private School Vouchers

Additional ISM resources for Gold Members
ISM Research Do Charter Schools Crowd Out Private School Enrollment? Evidence from Michigan

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