Are Charter Schools a Problem?

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver recently had a segment about charter schools, and whether they are as good for children in practice as they are in principle. Oliver pointed out that politicians love to praise charter schools, and some even have celebrity backers. He said that supporters point out success stories, while critics argue that the schools overstate their successes, siphon off tons of students, and divert resources within the school district.

Oliver brought up the fact that on average, charters have a slight edge in reading and are doing about the same in math as public schools. However, the quality is often uneven across states and schools. Oliver mentioned that some charter schools are so flawed that they don’t make it through even one school year, leaving students with nowhere to go in the middle of the semester.

In addition, Oliver pointed out the corruption that can occur in charter schools, with some school leaders padding attendance, misspending money, or even being arrested for stealing funds. While charter schools are required by law to be non-profits, they are allowed to hire Educational Management Companies (EMOs), which are able to try and profit from running the school and aren’t obligated to the same transparency as the school itself is.

At Elevate Teachers, we think that while some charter schools are very successful, there is certainly room for improvement in regulations. Elevate Teachers supporter and former IPS PR Director Mary Louise Bewley agrees, pointing to Herron High School and Paramount School of Excellence as examples of successful charters. But Bewley told us she thinks charter schools are creating problems in the Indianapolis Public Schools. Her concerns include lack of community involvement in selecting the school operators, low teacher salary and high teacher turnover rates. She also said that one board member consistently says IPS schools aren’t being successful, and if IPS can’t improve schools then others (charters) should be brought in.  “Instead of lobbying for charter laws, IPS should lobby for more dollars,” Bewley said.

What do you think about charter schools? Leave a comment below.