The Leaflet: Charter Schools Continue to Expand

Published June 23, 2016

Charter schools are providing an alternative to traditional public schools that are performing poorly and leaving disadvantaged students worse off.

A 2015 study from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, titled A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities, reported, “Charter schools are the fastest-growing choice option in U.S. public education. Over the past five years, student enrollment in charter public schools has grown by 62 percent. In 43 states and the District of Columbia, more than 2.9 million students now attend charter schools—which is more than six percent of the total number of students enrolled in all public schools.”

According to a recent study published by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), enrollment in the District of Columbia’s public charter schools accounted for nearly half of all DC students in the 2015-16 school year. In New York City, rapper and businessman Sean “Diddy” Combs announced he’s sponsoring a charter school in Harlem, New York, scheduled to open its doors this fall 2016. Across the country, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) allowing a new law which will fund Washington State charter schools from an account in the state’s budget that uses proceeds from the state lottery.

PhD student Elizabeth Setren of Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been researching unanswered questions in the policy debate of whether charter schools should be allowed to expand. In a recent MIT News article, Setren argues “The achievement of special needs lottery applicants in charters and in traditional public schools, and was surprised to discover that across the board, regardless of their level of need, these students are much more successful in charter schools. In fact, for English-language learners, a year in a charter school essentially allowed them to catch up to native English speakers in traditional public schools, erasing much of the achievement gap that typically exists.”

In a recent Somewhat Reasonable blog post, Heartland Managing Editor of School Reform News argues that student across the country would be better served with charter schools, “The expansion of school choice programs, along with an increasing amount of evidence pointing to their success, is iron-clad evidence they are working effectively. Unfortunately, powerful teachers unions’ ongoing attacks against school choice are standing in the way of progress, as politicians fear their financial and political clout.”

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