Boosting public confidence in charter schools

Mene Ukueberuwa suggests at National Review Online that policy tweaks could help increase popular support for charter schools.

It’s no shock that the rise of charter schools has spurred nationwide opposition from teachers’ unions, which are losing their vise grip on salary and benefits negotiations as independently managed schools spread. It is alarming, however, that the campaign against charters may be starting to gain ground. A poll released last Friday by the nonpartisan journal Education Next shows that public support for charter schools has declined by more than 10 percentage points just in the past year, with the rising doubts spread evenly across party lines.

There are many possible explanations for the increasingly negative perception of charters among the American public. But school-reform advocates should take the news as an urgent call to rebut the slander being heaped on charters and to address the deficient policies that actually have held back their success in some regions. …

… The first big difference-maker in charter-school outcomes by region is the presence of authorizers that actively shut down underperforming schools. States such as Florida and Arizona, where charters are finally managing to reduce the achievement gap between their white and black students, are also among the leaders in closing low-performing schools: both closed more than 5 percent of their charters in 2015–16 alone. To ensure that poor-performing schools are held to account, regional authorizers must have both the power to close schools and the incentive to do so. …

… A second, even clearer difference between regions where charters succeed and regions where they struggle is the balance of independent versus network-affiliated schools. Headlines often tout the fact that urban charters fare better than suburban ones, but much of this trend can be chalked up to the fact that charter schools in cities are likelier to belong to networks. These networks reduce the administrative costs for each of their schools and provide invaluable know-how for teachers and administrators at newly opened locations.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...