Reasons to Support Charter Schools

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Reasons to Support Charter Schools

Our Current Public School System Is Failing Too Many Children

One-third of all students and one-half of all African-American and Latino students who enter our public school system do not graduate with their entering class. It's time to try some new approaches to education.

Source: Graduation and Dropout Statistics For Washington's Counties, Districts, and Schools - School Year 2002-03,
published by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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Open to All — Equal Access to High-Quality Public Education

Charter public schools are open to all children and are tuition-free. Like traditional public schools, charter public schools cannot discriminate in their admissions or operations based on race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, income level, disabling condition, proficiency in the English language, or athletic ability.

They are often designed to serve low-income and/or at-risk students who are falling through the cracks of the traditional public school system.

Charter schools are funded on a per-pupil basis with public dollars; many schools are also supported by generous businesses and foundations.

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Focus on At-Risk Children

At least 40% of the students in half of the existing charter schools are considered at-risk, or previously dropped out. For example, the majority of Texas charter schools serve a significantly greater percentage of minority and low-income students, and many of these students have dropped out of traditional public schools. (Source: Center for Education Reform)

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Diverse Student Body

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 1999-2000), 27.3% of the students in charter schools are African Americans, compared to 16.9% percent in traditional public schools; 20.8% percent are of Hispanic origin, compared to 14.9% in traditional public schools, and 2.3% are Native Americans, compared to 1.2% in traditional schools.

A majority of all charter schools have a minority population of at least 41%.

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Freedom of Choice for Parents & Teachers

Charter public schools give parents and teachers the freedom to choose. Parents are able to make a choice about which school may be best for their child according to each school's mission and/or student body. Also, charter schools can re-vitalize many experienced teachers who have been weighed down by the traditional public school system. In addition, there is a sense of ownership because they choose to be involved with the school.

These choices are primarily based on educational reasons: high academic standards, small class size, innovative approaches, and educational philosophies in line with their own. Some people like charter schools for their small size and associated safety (charter schools serve an average of 250 students).

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Accountability to Parents & the Government

Charter public schools are accountable. Although charter schools have their own boards (created by the founders of the school), they are still directly accountable for their academic and financial performance to either the local school board or the Superintendent of Public Instruction(SPI) through the specific contractual provisions of their charters.

They are also accountable to parents, who always have the option to withdraw their child if the school doesn't serve their needs. This means a charter school that doesn't serve the needs of its paretns and children will close for lack of enrollment.

They are accountable to the government usually through school districts or public universities that authorize them. These authorizers have the ability to revoke a school's charter for good reason at any time.

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Educators are Innovators Commited to Improvement

Charter public schools can be laboratories for innovation. They have greater autonomy than traditional public schools and often attract educational pioneers who experiment with new approaches to teaching and learning. Besides teachers and parents, charter schools can also be created and run by non-profit groups, universities, and community groups.

Educators in a charter public schools have a mission-driven vision and are commited to improving the public school system. Free from many state-mandated regulations, charter schools can offer more curriculum and design options to parents and children, such as Montessori, Core Knowledge (Back-to-Basics), Arts & Science, and a longer-day, longer-year, strict-discpline school for at-risk children living in urban areas (sometimes referred to as College Prep schools).

Charter schools give administrators the freedom to do what they believe is best for the children's learning. They give teachers the opportunity to be innovative in the classroom with the curriculum and approaches to teaching.

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Flexible Curriculum, Design, & Staffing

Charter public schools are operated independently from local school districts. They are free from regulations that dictate curriculum and design. Charter schools are mission-driven, created by innovators who have a vision and a committment to a chosen purpose and philosophy.

The creators of charter schools (parents, educators, and community leaders) select the school boards, rather than their being selected through a political process. They in turn are not bound by ineffective staff hiring and firing processes and therefore are able to assemble and retain top-tier staffs.

Although charter public schools are deregulated and given much more autonomy than conventional public schools, they are, in return, held to a much higher level of accountability. If they are not responsive to accountability requirements from government agencies, they will be shut down.

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Proven Academic Achievement

Charter schools are succeeding at promoting high student achievement among their students.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data shows that charter school achievement is significant:

  • Fourth-grade students in Arizona, California, and Colorado charters outperform their traditional public school counterparts in their states in reading. (One third of all charter schools operate in California and Arizona.)
  • Eighth-grade charter students in Washington, D.C. and California outscore all other public schools in their states in reading.
  • Eighth-graders in Colorado and Delaware charter schools outperform 8th graders in all other public schools nationally in reading and math.

State data substantiates charter success:

  • Arizona charter school students perform better than their traditional counterparts. The longer a child is in a charter school, the better he or she achieves, according to a study of 60,000 students in Arizona.
  • In California, charter schools produce stronger student achievement among low-income students than traditional public schools by a margin of nearly 5 percent.
  • Wisconsin's charter schools are doing better than traditional schools based on the results of state tests in fourth and eighth grade for two academic years.
  • In Michigan, charter schools showed greater gains than the statewide average in all but one of ten grades and subjects on the 2003 Michigan Assessment of Educational Progress (MEAP) test.
  • Sixty percent of urban charter schools in Massachusetts outperformed comparable traditional schools on the 2003 MCAS exams.

National data supports charter achievement:

  • A 2003 national report by the Brookings Institution shows that test scores at charter schools are rising sharply and surpassing traditional schools. Additionally, more traditional schools throughout the nation are being added to lists of failing schools while, over time, more charters are being added to the lists of successes.

  • National survey data find that charter schools serve a disproportionate share of children least prepared and most behind. For example, the majority of Texas charter schools serve a significantly greater percentage of minority and low-income students, and many of these students have dropped out of traditional public schools.

For More On Achievement, Visit:

Source: Center for Education Reform

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Flexible & Creative Approaches to Budgeting

Most public school districts constantly face costs (e.g. salaries, health benefits, utility rates, insurance premiums) that increase faster than revenues. In order to pay for the increasing costs, most school districts have to cut back on educational programs.

Charter schools, from a school district standpoint, have costs always exactly proportionate to revenues. In other words, the costs of charter schools go up at exactly the same rate as the revenues because each gets its share of the revenue and that's it. The budgetary issues must be addressed by those organizations managing the schools, but from a school district standpoint, the costs are always in line with the revenue.

With regard to facilities, cities and states can be more creative in finding ways to meet the capital needs of charter schools. Some charter schools will use loan funds to help build new schools, others will look to charter school organizations to back loans that ultimately the schools will have to pay off, while still others find unused, city-owned buildings to rent for as little as $1 per year. For example, Chicago began with $2 million in a revolving loan fund eight years ago, and today they have over 10,000 children in charter schools. So for the cost of $2 million, they have facilities serving 10,000 children. Most school districts would face costs of about $200 million to build facilities for 10,000 children.

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Successfully Operating in 41 States, D.C. & Puerto Rico

More than 5,700 charter public schools already serve almost 2,000,000 children and their families in 41 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  Oregon (with over 100 charter schools) and Idaho (with over 30 charter schools) have authorize these innovative, independent public schools for almost a decade.

Minnesota was the first state to authorize charter public schools, more than 20 years ago, followed soon after by California and almost every other state in the USA.

Today, California has more than 860 charter schools.  Florida has more than 410.  Texas has more than 380.  Ohio has more than 330, Michigan has more than 280, Wisconsin more than 220, and Minnesota more than 160.

Although the proposed ballot initiative for WA would only authorize a maximum of 40 charter public schools in our state, its passage would begin the process of bringing this important public school choice to the families and children of our state.

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