My latest essay, which is a bit unusual for me in that it promotes a national government policy.
It would provide grants to states to support the administrative apparatus needed to ensure that charter school operators are given both a fair opportunity to offer educational alternatives and timely audits to ensure that they meet their responsibilities to students and parents. The grants should be sufficient to cover much more than the cost of this administrative apparatus. That way, recalcitrant states will have a strong incentive to adopt best practices for approving and evaluating charter schools.
I am not entirely sure that this is a good idea. But living in charter-hostile Maryland, I think it would take something like this to get charters going here.
Twenty-five years ago, charter schools hadn’t even been dreamed up. Today they are mushrooming across the country. There are 6,500 charter schools operating in 42 states, with more than 600 new ones opening every year. Within a blink there will be 3 million American children attending these freshly invented institutions (and 5 million students in them by the end of this decade).
1. As I see it, the main advantage that charter schools have over public schools is fact that bad teachers will tend to be fired and bad charters schools will tend to be closed.
2. Charter schools may follow a Clayton Christensen “disruptive innovation” path. That is, at first they will cater to low-income consumers. However, as they prove themselves in that niche, they may rapidly move up-market. Right now, many affluent parents are very attached to their public schools. However, that is an equilibrium that could tip. If parents come to view charter-school children as having an advantage in, say, college preparation, they will exit the regular public school system with great haste.
3. Another reason that charters may take off quickly in states and school districts that allow them to compete is that good young teachers are likely to prefer working at charter schools. If this happens over the next five to ten years, parents will notice that it is getting difficult to find good public school teachers and easier to find good teachers at charters.
4. If there is a rapid move toward charter schools, I think that this exacerbates the problem of unfunded pensions for retired teachers. If public school enrollment levels off or declines, I believe that the share of the budget devoted to paying for pensions is bound to increase.
5. I suspect that, relative to public schools, on average charters undertake less left-wing indoctrination of students. This is possibly the main reason for conservatives and libertarians to get excited about charter schools.
6. The political opponents of charters have to prevent them from getting started. Where I live, the opponents have succeeded. But once charters become entrenched, getting rid of them is quite difficult. See NYC.