Charter schools need more oversight

Since they receive federal funding, charter schools should be required to follow all important federal regulations.

Charter schools have recently been the center of controversy in the education debate. Funded by tax dollars but privately operated, tuition-free and not required to adhere to normal education regulations, charter schools are regulated by their board of directors. According to 2013’s PDK/Gallup Poll on the public’s attitudes towards public schools, Approximately 52% of Americans think that charter schools offer a superior education to students than public schools. However, the facts don’t line up.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that there were several urban communities where charter schools fell starkly behind public schools: “There are urban communities in which the majority of the charter schools lag the learning gains of their TPS [traditional public school] counterparts, some to distressingly large degrees.” A lack of regulation within charter schools has caused them to not measure up to public schools.

Overall, charter schools need more stringent oversight. A report from PRWatch discovered that millions of tax dollars were used to help charter schools that never even opened. Tax dollars wasted on these “ghost schools” could have been used to help struggling students in public schools or legitimate charter schools. Even if a school does open, they are far more likely to close than their public school counterparts. According to the previously cited PRWatch report, in the 2011-2012 school year, charter schools were 2.5 times more likely to close than their public school counterparts. When students have their schools close, their education is disrupted and they become less likely to graduate high school.

The charter school system is not held to the same standards as public schools, but they are receiving the exact same funding. The number of regulations that charter schools must adhere to varies by state, but according to the National Alliance for Public Charter schools, almost all states exempt charters from all state and federal laws, except those covering “health, safety, civil rights, etc.” Charter schools do not have to follow normal education requirements that all public school students must follow, which presents a significant problem.

There is some evidence that charter schools can improve student performance. A report by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that urban charter schools perform better in math and reading overall compared to public schools, and the Brookings Institute found that the people who benefited most from charter schools were “disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.” Charter schools can offer specialized learning environments that are more personal than public schools. Instead of acting as an outright replacement for public schools, the charter school system should support a personalized learning environment for struggling students.

While charter schools can teach in a specialized manner, more government oversight is needed for charter schools to excel. Unfortunately, with Betsy DeVos confirmed as education secretary, this is unlikely to happen as she has been a strong proponent of privatizing the public education system and lowering the needed governmental oversight of charter schools. With such fierce opposition to basic regulation, we should not expect to see oversight during the Trump administration.