Everyone Is Entitled to an Opinion on Charter Schools But Parents Deserve the Final Say

Re-posting a blog post from Education Post, a nonprofit, nonpartisan communications organization dedicated to building support for student-focused improvements in public education.

By Lane Wright

Over the last year we’ve seen the NAACP come out forcefully against charter schools. We’ve seen the Trump administration support choice in ways that have made people question their own positions on charter schools and school choice more broadly. And as a constant mainstay, we’ve seen teachers unions fighting to discredit and dismantle charter schools across the country.

Now we see a new poll saying public support for opening new charter schools is dropping.

From the AP: About 39 percent of respondents favor opening more charters—schools that are funded by public money, but usually operated independently of school districts—according to the survey by Education Next, a journal published by Harvard’s Kennedy School and Stanford University. That’s down from 51 percent last year.

With so many variables, researchers admit they aren’t sure exactly why public support for public charter schools has dropped, and we here at Education Post don’t pretend to know either.

What we do know is that many charter schools are helping narrow or even eliminate the achievement gap. A study from earlier this year found that nonprofit charter schools (which account for more than 80 percent of charter schools in the country) are delivering substantially better results than for-profit charter schools. Many also do better than traditional public schools.

And some organizations are just killing it! Achievement First, for example, helps its students get “an additional 125 days of learning in math and 57 days in reading,” according to the U.S. News report. About a half dozen other charters—organizations that serve thousands or even tens of thousands of students—were also called out for doing remarkable work with students.

We also know families are always looking for better options. Those who can afford it pay for private school or move to wealthier neighborhoods which are zoned for better schools. Others seek out magnet or International Baccalaureate programs within existing schools. Those who can’t afford private schools or fancy neighborhoods seek out vouchers or tax credit scholarships to help them escape low-performing schools, and many millions—more than can be accommodated—try to improve their prospects by putting their names into lotteries or on waiting lists at charter schools.

Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, says more than 300 public charter schools opened last year, with a total of over 6,900 charter schools serving over 3 million students across the country.

All of these families have something in common. They all want better for their kids. And while everyone is free to check a box on a survey about what they support, no one should deny families their right to a school they feel better meets their needs.

Lane Wright is an editor at Education Post who is focused on telling stories that help families understand how their schools are doing, how to make them better, and how policy plays a role. He’s a former journalist and former press secretary to Florida’s governor.