What is a charter school?

In 2009 several parents got together and began to research what charter schools were. We had never heard of them but knew that our superintendent at the time, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, had “trained” at the Broad Academy and we knew that the Broad Foundation promoted charter schools so we decided to look into the subject.

We discovered so much information that I decided to post it on a blog for others to have an opportunity to review and make an informed decision on the subject. That blog was Seattle Education 2010. The first words that I wrote for the blog were “What is a charter school?”. Below is what I wrote:

The basic difference between a traditional public school and a privately run charter school is that with a charter school there is complete control of the school by a private enterprise within a public school district. Although taxpayer-funded, charters operate without the same degree of public and district oversight of a standard public school. Most charter schools do not hire union teachers which means that they can demand the teacher work longer hours including weekends at the school site and pay less than union wages. Charter schools take the school district’s allotment of money provided for each student within the public schools system and use it to develop their programs. In many systems, they receive that allotment without having to pay for other costs such as transportation for students to and from the school. Some states, such as Minnesota, actually allocate more than what is granted to public school students.

A charter school can expel any student that it doesn’t believe fits within its standards or meets its level of expectation in terms of test scores. If the student is dropped off the rolls of the charter school, the money that was allotted for that student may or may not be returned to the district at the beginning of the next year. That is dependent upon the contract that is established by each district.

Also, according to a recent (June 15, 2009) study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent performed worse. Forty-six percent demonstrated “no significant difference” from public schools. Only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than public schools.

In 2009 when I wrote this the drum beat for charter schools was in the distance and rather faint but today we are facing legislation in Olympia that would change our public schools in the state of Washington dramatically.

The blog, Seattle Schools Community Forum, has written a six-part series on charter schools in the U.S.  It includes the history of charter schools, federal laws, the impact on Special Education and ELL programs. The posts in the series are:

Charter Schools : The Landscape Today

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