Sunday, February 21, 2016

Whom Do Charter Schools Serve?

The great irony is that the charter school movement was launched decades ago as a solution to the "problem" that special needs students were not being adequately served by the traditional public schools. Charter schools would specialize in serving the needs of that neglected population — or so the story went. How ironic, then, that the modern charter school movement creams the top performing, largely white middle class, sector of the public school population and leaves the poor, the needy, and the minorities back in the traditional public schools. If you don't believe it, read here, and here.

An anonymous correspondent, responding to an earlier posting to this blog, relayed the following experiences:

When I worked at a charter school, the demographics and census of that charter school did not even line up with those of the surrounding Deer Valley Unified School District [a north Phoenix suburban school district].

Arizona State law requires schools, district and charter, to provide transportation services. Many charter schools do not and will not provide this service. Let us see how long a charter school would survive if they were to accept all disabled students, low income students, all ELL students, and students that would require transportation to the school.

One other thing that bothers me about charter schools is their procurement process does not have to follow the laws that district schools must follow.

There does need to be more accountability of charter schools to level the playing field. If the census of the charter school is skewed from that of the surrounding district schools, then something is definitely amiss.

And now, irony climbs atop irony. Charter schools that have creamed high scoring students from the public schools are labeling high percentages of the students "autistic" or other special needs to increase their state allotment from under $10,000 per regular student to about $20,000 per "special needs" student. And then they report no expenditures for special programs.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
University of Colorado Boulder
National Education Policy Center
San José State University

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, nor San José State University.

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