As a school board member, I lament that public education is all too partisan.
Democrats and Republicans disagree on teacher salaries and benefits, school prayer, discipline, vouchers for poor students to attend private schools, sex education, arming teachers, gender-neutral bathrooms, and saluting the American flag, among other things.
Yet each party mainly likes charter schools.
A brainchild of reform Democrats like Bill Clinton, charter schools are public schools authorized by public bodies. They cannot impose religion, charge tuition, or discriminate in admission. Yet they are autonomous like private schools, chosen by parents, able to focus on a single mission like Montessori schooling, and often staffed by untenured teachers who principals can hold accountable.
In short, charter schools combine public school equity with private school flexibility and customer service.
Two decades of research finds charter schools excelling on parent satisfaction and graduation rates. Overall results are mixed, but within low-income communities, charters typically show greater test scores gains than traditional public schools counterparts, and far greater success preparing disadvantaged students for college.
This fits with decades of common sense and research, summarized in the late Jeanne Chall’s classic The Academic Achievement Challenge. Chall and a range of other researchers find...