Charter schools receive less funding than equivalent public schools, but in many cases are achieving improved outcomes for disadvantaged kids. Ray Fisman writes:
Minnesota’s charter school law allowed educators and other concerned individuals to apply to the state for permission to operate a government-funded school outside of the public education system. In order to obtain and keep their licenses, these new schools needed to show they were serving their students effectively, based on goals laid out in the school’s “charter.” City Academy, America’s first charter school, opened in St. Paul the following year. Its mission was to get high-school dropouts on track to vocational careers, and it is still operating today.
Principals are able to operate outside the constraints of the public education system and are assessed on results.
…..While they’re funded with public money, they generally operate outside of collective bargaining agreements (only about one-tenth of charter schools are unionized) and other constraints that often prevent principals in public schools from innovating for the good of their students (so the argument goes). In exchange for this freedom, they generally get less funding than public schools (though they’re free to look for private donations, and many do) and have to prove that they are making good on the promises set out in their charters, which often means showing that they improve their students’ performance on statewide standardized tests.
The program has been so successful that there are now almost 6000 charter schools nationwide. Fisman reports on a study of enrolments at six Boston charter schools between 2002 and 2008:
“….Getting into a charter school doubled the likelihood of enrolling in Advanced Placement classes (the effects are much bigger for math and science than for English) and also doubled the chances that a student will score high enough on standardized tests to be eligible for state-financed college scholarships. While charter school students aren’t more likely to take the SAT, the ones who do perform better, mainly due to higher math scores. The upshot of this improvement in college readiness is that, upon graduation, while charter and public school students are just as likely to go on to post-secondary education, charter students enroll at four-year colleges at much higher rates. A four-year college degree has historically meant a better job with a higher salary……. a ticket to a better life for many students.”
He warns that “Not every charter school is right for every kid” but they do highlight the benefits of a decentralized education system where schools are assessed on outcomes rather than conformity to a program. Other studies have shown that increased public funding does not improve education outcomes. Ever wondered why bureaucrats continue to promote this as a solution?
Read more at Do charter schools work? Slate | Ray Fisman