Despite operating independently and lacking oversight and accountability, charter schools are considered public schools, with taxpayers footing the bills. Indeed, a 2015 PR Watch piece reports that the feds spent $3.3 billion over the past 20 years “creating and fueling the charter school industry,” and yet have no comprehensive list of the receiving schools or how they’ve spend the monies.

Here are a few more tidbits:

  • Michigan alone spends nearly $1 billion a year on charters, but, as the Detroit Free Press reports, it “fails to hold them accountable.”
  • There are now some 7,000 charter schools across 44 states and D.C., boasting about 3.2 million students.
  • Nearly 2,500 charter schools were closed between 2001 and 2013 alone, sending some 288,000 students scurrying to find another placement.
  • New Orleans now has the dubious honor of being the first U.S. city without even one traditional public school.

Another fact: According to a recent Education Week Research Center analysis of federal data, of 935 public schools with graduation rates under 50%, 54% of them are charter schools.

Nevertheless, U.S. Education Secretary DeVos has now pitched a $5 billion school choice proposal—a national tax credit enabling parents to send their kids to any public or private school they want. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation opposes her plan saying, “The federal tax code is an inappropriate place to intervene in state education policy.”

Hence and finally, such instances of pushback as…

  1. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 86 charter bills were enacted in 2018. Says NCSL’s director Michelle Exstrom, “The debate about [their existence] is over in most states. It’s not really a should-we-shouldn’t-we thing anymore. They’re starting to really get more to the granular level of, now that we have choice in place, how do we make sure it’s actually working and doing what we intended for it to do.”
  2. Former California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed all efforts to rein in charter schools and hold them accountable, but now, thanks to Governor Gavin Newsom, charters can no longer appeal rejected applications, new ones can be blocked, and existing ones closed down. He’s also indicated that more changes may be afoot.
  3. West Virginia lawmakers, harking the call of striking teachers, recently rejected a bill that would have opened the state’s first charter schools—up to 7 for starters, along with 1,000 education savings accounts so parents of special needs and/or bullied children can pay for private school.

And so it goes; please stay tuned…  ~ Carol