Charters & Choice

When Andrew Broy addressed reporters in advance of the Chicago teachers’ strike to say the work stoppage would have no impact on the city’s charter schools, he was doing more than just assuring current charter families that schools would remain open (12 percent of the city’s public school population of 400,000 is enrolled at charters). The president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools was also engaged in public relations, knowing the strike would force tens of thousands of parents to alter work schedules or scramble for day care.

“I just see charter options and opportunities growing in any event [but] if there’s a strike the pace might accelerate,” Broy told the Chicago Tribune.

This puts into practice Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s famous dictum to never let a serious crisis go to waste, but it also gives the charter school movement a reason to reflect on its attributes after twenty years. 

Leaders in the movement have been focused during the past several years on charter school quality, looking to scale up the best models and proffering the standards by which all charters and their authorizers should live by. This has been necessary for the vitality of the movement, but...

What do you get when a group of creative and motivated students are empowered to tell the story of their own charter school using video and music? You get a movie-style trailer that illustrates not only what the school means to them, but also what it's taught them. Check out DECA Prep's "coming soon" video, created and produced by DECA students.

In a world where cynicism and defeatism can rain down from the grown ups to the young people - and expect more of this in Ohio and elsewhere when "Won't Back Down" premieres later this month - this bit of real life from imaginative and empowered young people is worth celebrating.

What do you get when a group of creative and motivated students are empowered to tell the story of their charter school using video and music? You get a movie-style trailer that illustrates not only what the school means to them, but also what it's taught them. Check out DECA Prep's "coming soon" video, created and produced by DECA students, as are all their video materials.

In a world where cynicism and defeatism can rain down from the grown ups to the young people - and expect more of this in Ohio and elsewhere when "Won't Back Down" pemieres later this month - this bit of real life from imaginative and empowered young people is worth celebrating.

The 2012 Democratic Party platform released this week calls for the expansion of “public school options for low-income youth,” a position that has appeared in varying language in every Democratic platform since 1992. But as Marc Fisher of the Washington Post reported this week, the Democratic platform historically has been “a jagged series of experiments” that once made room for more than just public-school choice.

Democratic Donkey - Icon
The Democratic Party's thinking on private-school choice has changed significantly over time.
Photo by DonkeyHotey.

Today, the national party fervently rejects vouchers for private and parochial schools, but that wasn’t the case thirty years ago. In 1972, Democrats sought to “channel financial aid by a Constitutional formula to children in non-public schools,” a position that reflected not only the influence of the Catholic Church at the time but also the drive, the values and the persistence of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Moynihan, who also crafted education planks for the Democratic platforms of 1964...

A couple of reports last week reanimated the debate about what to do with Catholic schools, which have been hemorrhaging students for the last couple of decades. The new challenge—“one of their most complex… yet,” writes Sean Cavanagh in Education Week—is charter schools. One, by former RAND economist Richard Buddin, was published by the Cato Institute; the other, by Abraham Lackman, a scholar-in-residence at the Albany Law School, in Albany, New York, is not out yet, but was summarized by Cavanagh in the Ed Week story. Writes Cavanagh,

Many charter schools tout attributes similar to those offered by the church's schools, such as disciplined environments, an emphasis on personal responsibility and character development, and distinctive instructional and curricular approaches.

And Buddin, whose report is more broadly aimed at measuring the impact of charters on all private schools, says,

[C]harter schools are pulling large numbers of students from the private education market and present a potentially dev­astating impact on the private education market, as well as a serious increase in the financial burden on taxpayers.

As both Adam Emerson and Kathleen Porter-Magee have already pointed out, Catholic schools were in decline long before charters came...

Roving the education world

Mike and Adam discuss the future of Catholic education and what role vouchers may play. Amber analyzes how the public sees all sorts of education issues.

Amber's Research Minute

PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools

Eek. Vouchers + creationism = liberal horror, teacher-union field-day, and at least a small risk to the school-choice movement. Politically and strategically, it would be so much simpler if those “voucher schools” would just behave themselves!

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If only Michaelangelo had taken on voucher accountability too. 
Photo by ideacreamanuelaPps

But how upset should one really be about the AP report from Louisiana that some of the private schools participating in the Pelican State’s new voucher program “teach creationism and reject evolution”?

State Superintendent of Education John White offered the correct policy response: All voucher students must participate in the state assessments, which include science. “If students are failing the test, we’re going to intervene, and the test measures [their understanding of] evolution.” In other words, the schools can do what they like but if their voucher-bearing students don’t learn enough to pass the state tests, the state will do something about it—ultimately (under Louisiana regulations) eliminating those schools from eligibility to participate in the...

For seventeen years, the five-million strong National PTA urged state governments to give only local school boards the authority to grant or deny charter-school applications. That changed this month, when the group’s board struck that restriction from its platform and extended its support to “all authorizing bodies.” The National PTA says it wants to be more relevant in charter-school policy, and its old position conflicted with the plain fact that local PTAs are increasingly working with charters authorized by universities, states, or independent bodies. This is a big leap for a group that education analyst Thomas Toch once accused of being “out of step with many parents’ demands for change in public education today” and that has lobbied alongside teacher unions for decades. Of course this change in the national stance isn’t binding on state chapters that have taken contrary positions. Georgia and Washington PTAs, for instance, have opposed recent efforts to create state-level commissions that would have the power to authorize charters: They still want to keep oversight (i.e., power) over all charters “local.” (In the case of Washington State, there are no charters of any sort, thanks in part to past PTA opposition.) But...

School-choice advocates have touted results of this recent study—a joint publication of the Brown Center on Education Policy (Brookings) and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (Harvard). And they have every right to: The random-assignment study (a gold standard of research often elusive in school-choice research) boasts some strong findings for choice supporters. The study began in 1997 when Harvard’s Paul Peterson began tracking students who applied for a new privately funded voucher program in Gotham. Created after Cardinal John O’Connor invited then-school chancellor Rudy Crew to “send the city’s most troubled youth to Catholic schools,” the program offered three-year vouchers of $1,400 per year to 1,300 low-income youngsters. Peterson tracked participants as well as those who did not win the lottery. Fifteen years later, Peterson, along with Brookings’s Matt Chingos, show that black elementary school students who won the voucher lottery in New York City were 7 percentage points (or 20 percent) more likely to attend college than their peers who didn’t. Moreover, the percentage of black voucher students who attended a selective college was more than double that of black non-voucher students. (There...

This Cato Institute analysis—conducted by RAND economist Richard Buddin—conveys a stark message: “Charter schools took approximately 190,000 students from private schools between 2000 and 2008.” Cato’s Adam Schaeffer said of the findings: The shift is “wreaking havoc on private education” while only marginally improving public schools. Overall, Buddin found that 8 percent of elementary pupils in charter schools and 11 percent of middle and high school students came to their charters from private schools. The numbers were bigger in urban areas, where 32 percent of the elementary-charter enrollment was drawn from the private sector (and 23 and 15 percent of middle and high school enrollments, respectively). And they were worse still for urban Catholic schools (though enrollment in Catholics started declining before the first charters appeared). Interestingly, the effect of charter schools on private-school enrollment is much stronger in states with strong charter laws (as gauged by the Center for Education Reform). Urban charters in states with strong laws, for example, draw 34 percent of their elementary enrollment from private schools. In states with weak laws, that percentage drops to 7. Overall, Buddin concludes that this private-to-charter school shift left taxpayers with a $1.8 billion larger education bill annually...

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