Blue Jersey’s Ed Reform 101
Part 5 – Charter School and Voucher Myths
Charter schools have taken on an almost mythic quality. Touted by politicians, the subject of Hollywood films, the darlings of Wall Street: listening to the marketing, you would think charter schools were the saviors of American children.
Don’t believe the hype. While there may well be a place for charter schools, they are not the miracles their sellers would have us believe. They vary greatly in quality, don’t serve the same populations of students, and are not subject to the same oversight taxpayers demand from public schools.
Neither charter schools – nor vouchers to private schools – will solve the problems of poverty that plague 20% of our children and lead to gaps in school achievement. Neither is a substitute for a real education policy.
And yet they remain at the center of Chris Christie’s “reform” agenda. That’s a shame when you know the facts.
What you should know about charter schools & vouchers:
Myth: Charter schools do a better job of teaching kids than public schools.
The Truth: Studies show charter schools do not, on average, perform any better than public schools.
– The largest national study of charter schools found only 17% of charters perform better than public schools; 37% perform worse.
– When correcting for student characteristics, New Jersey charter schools do no better than public schools on statewide tests.
– Analysis of data in New York and New Jersey suggests that charter schools’ “successes” are not replicable because they often serve different students.
Myth: Charter schools teach the same kids that public schools do.
The Truth: The populations for many “successful” charter schools are not the same as neighboring public schools.
– New Jersey charter schools do not enroll as many special needs students as regular schools.
– Many high-profile New Jersey charter schools touted as successes enroll far fewer children in poverty than public schools in their neighborhoods.
Myth: Charter schools have an unfair disadvantage because they don’t get as much money as public schools.
The Truth: High-profile charter schools enjoy large private donations, and charters usually don’t have to educate the most difficult and expensive students.
– The most well-endowed charters receive more than $10,000 per pupil in additional private funding.
– Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone schools have assets of more than $200 million.
– Public schools are obligated to provide many more services (special education, student support) than charter schools, which accounts for their larger per pupil expenses.
Myth: Charter schools are “public” schools..
The Truth: Many charter schools are run by private, for-profit companies; many investors in charter schools enjoy special tax breaks.
– Private investors in charter facilities are doubling their money by enjoying a federal tax credit.
– Private education management organizations (EMOs) operate more than 30 percent of charter schools.
– Both Gov. Christie and Acting Education Commissioner Cerf have worked for for-profit school management companies.
Myth: Films like “The Cartel” and “Waiting For Superman” give an accurate portrayal of charter school issues.
The Truth: Hollywood has overhyped charter schools.
– Waiting For Superman has many errors and omissions, including ignoring the majority of charter schools which are failing and ignoring the effect of poverty on student learning. The documentary also has staged scenes.
– The Cartel is riddled with errors, and way overstates charter schools’ successes.
Myth: Charter school operators are subject to the same restrictions as public school administrators.
The Truth: Charter school leaders are not subject to the Christie “superintendent’s cap.”
– Directors of small charter schools can make more money than local superintendents.
Myth: Private schools do a better job of educating children than public schools, and they spend less per student.
The Truth: Private school spending and quality varies greatly.
– Private school spending varies greatly, and tuition does not cover all private school costs.
– When controlling for student differences, private schools do no better than public schools in student achievement (p.3).
– Large-scale studies of voucher programs show no increase in student achievement.
Myth: The NJ voucher bill is “revenue-neutral”: it won’t take money away from public schools.
The Truth: The voucher bill will cost local districts hundreds of millions of dollars.
– NJ’s Office of Legislative Service’s report clearly spells out that the voucher bill will cost local districts $839.9 million. (p.1)
For more information about charter schools, we recommend:
Next in our series: A Recap
Tuesday, 8/30/11: Standardized Testing
Wednesday, 8/31/11: Teacher Quality
Thursday, 9/1/11: Merit Pay, Seniority & Tenure
Friday, 9/2/11: Teachers Unions
Sunday, 9/4/11: Charter Schools & Vouchers
Tuesday, 9/6/11: Recap