Five Truths About Charter Schools

Jeff Bryant

The following was published at The Progressive.

Recently, four major national newspapers published editorials criticizing the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on charter schools. Bowing to the influence of the powerful charter PR machine, the editorial boards of the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal issued scathing critiques of the NAACP decision, saying the organization “should do its homework,” that it’s “misguided,” and that it’s guilty of “leaving black children behind.”

These editorials have got it wrong. Here’s what everyone needs to know about charter schools:

There’s no research consensus that charter schools outperform public schools. Charter proponents hold aloft a 2015 study by CREDO as definitive and conclusive. It isn’t. That study found urban charters produce higher academic outcomes—cleverly phrased as differences in “days of learning”—for African American and Latino students in urban communities. However, a significant body of research on charters shows they generally do no better and often do worse than typical public schools. Also the differences CREDO found were statistically quite small—.008 for Latino students and .05 for African American students—compared to gains produced through more potent reforms such as pre-Kindergarten programs and class-size reduction.

There’s no evidence charters produce better long-term outcomes for students. In fact, a recent study of charter schools in Texas found they not only have no impact on test scores but have a negative impact on earnings later on in life.

Charters don’t enroll the same students as public schools. A recent ACLU report found illegal policies that exclude specific groups of students in more than 20 percent of the charter schools they examined. Another study in New York found English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter schools.

Charters tend to intensify racial segregation. Another study found that 70 percent of black students in charters were in “hypersegregated schools,” where the student population is 90 percent non-white. Compare this to only 36 percent of black students attending traditional public schools in hypersegregated schools.

Charters tend to practice discriminatory forms of school discipline. A recent analysis from researchers at the Center for Civil Rights Remedies found that charter schools suspend students at a much higher rate than non-charter schools. Also, a disproportionate amount of those suspensions fall on black students—who are four times more likely to be suspended than white students—and students with disabilities—who are twice as likely to be suspended as their non-disabled peers.

Often the loudest proponents for charters—hedge fund CEOs, real estate moguls, and wealthy individuals in the tech industry—never attended public schools themselves and don’t send their children to them. Although they promote charters because of their supposed success with low-income students of color, these wealthy individuals are the very same people who take advantage of loopholes in the tax code that enable them to avoid paying tens of millions in personal income taxes. And those taxes could go to support the public schools the students they purport to care so much already attend.

 

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