What is a charter myth-conception? Of course, there's always another side to any politically charged story. This series will seek to tell the other side of the charter school story in a way that will bring context to what we believe are misconceptions about Charter Schools in general, and consequently misconceptions about high performing charter networks, like our own KIPP SoCal. In doing so, we hope you join us in refocusing the narrative on what truly matters: educational equity for all of our children, regardless of zip code, income or ability.
Myth-conception: Charter Schools steal money from traditional public schools.
Charter opponents have long claimed that charter schools siphon funding away from the traditional public school system, but did you know that charter public schools - on average - receive less funding per student than traditional public schools while paying an oversight fee to their district authorizers and being responsible for their own facilities, unlike district schools?
The simple truth is that in California, federal and state public school funding follows the student, so funding goes to whichever public school families choose for their child, including traditional public schools, magnet schools, pilot schools, and charter public schools. Families with the financial means may also choose to send their child to a private school (though these families are rarely scrutinized for exercising their right to school choice). It is also a simple truth that 8200 families have chosen to send their children to a KIPP SoCal school because they believed that decision was in the best interest of their child. We wonder, who better to make that decision?
Charter opponents have also claimed that in 'stealing' funding and students, charter schools are not only draining resources from traditional public schools, but weakening the traditional public school system overall. But what actually happens to traditional school districts when charter schools come to town? 'Do they offer families new, high-quality educational options and help spread better teaching techniques? Or do they represent unwanted competition, swiping students and funding from districts until academic performance begins to suffer?
Now, a new study finds striking evidence that the presence of charter schools in urban areas unmistakably boosts the average achievement of all black and Hispanic students while not detracting from the achievement of white students. The phenomenon is particularly apparent in larger cities, though minority pupils are shown to selectively benefit from the presence of charters in rural school districts as well.
The study, released today by the reform-oriented Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is among the first to examine the question of how charter schools impact all students within a geographic area. While much research — in particular, a series of influential publications by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes — exists directly comparing the academic impact of charters versus traditional public schools, this one looks at how the performance of all students, in both district and charter schools, is affected as charter school enrollment grows. It's a dense, but good read that we recommend.
As well, while some may also argue that higher enrollment (which equals funding) in charter public schools is a main factor driving lower enrollment at traditional public schools, recent studies by the Center for Reinventing Public Education have found that this is not the case. In fact, since the 2010-11 school year, only half of district enrollment losses are attributable to charter school gains. Socio-economic issues including lower birth rates and limited low-income housing resulting in community member displacement are major factors for both traditional and charter public school enrollment decline. The study finds, rather, that fiscal distress in district schools is a product of multiple factors including inaccurate enrollment and budget projections, inadequate accounting systems, and unsustainable collective bargaining agreements. Stopping the growth of charter public schools will not address these issues and we're confident that the Governor Newsom's recent signing of AB 1505 affirms that high quality charter schools are not only here to stay, but are a critical lever in helping to close the state's achievement gap.
Let's continue to have a conversation about the real issues. And stay laser focused on what matters: a quality education for all of our children. It's time for the education community to come together and advocate for the much-needed resources all public schools deserve, including adequate funding for all public schools (both traditional and charter), and additional resources for our Special Education students, English Learners, Foster and Homeless Youth, and all students who have been systemically under-resourced. Let’s put the focus back on what’s best for the child so that we can all move forward towards a more educationally equitable world.