A Chance For Charters?

Jimmy Gao ’20

At Ridge, the quality of our school is not an issue. Relative to many other public schools in the country, we receive a great education. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the students in the United States, as the general population scrutinizes the quality of public schools. As such, in an effort to provide a better education for many young Americans, the concept of “charter schools” was created.

Charter schools, offered as an alternative to public schools, are schools that are run by private organizations but receive public funding from the government. Unfortunately, despite some benefits championed by supporters of charter schools, they are overall harmful to the United States educational system.

One of the problems with charter schools is that they drain from the financial resource pool that they share with public schools. The money that is being offered by the government is increasingly going to charter schools instead of public schools, leaving the public education system to suffer. In Pennsylvania, one of the areas where charter schools have become a serious matter of debate, the Pittsburgh district is short $53 million as its funding goes to charter schools [1].  Instead of trying to improve public schools, educators have instead taken to entirely abandoning them in favor of trying to focus on charters—but that just doesn’t work.

That’s because the private ownership of the school lends itself to unpredictability. Many up-and-coming entrepreneurs have taken to using charter schools as a means of revenue. Charter schools can be a very profitable business venture, especially considering that charter schools are exempt from a lot of the transparency regulations that public schools are. Sometimes schools become more focused on the taking than the teaching, but children’s education should not be a for-profit sector. We can already see the negative effects of greed in the charter education system, as there have been past incidents where mismanagement causes schools to fall behind and sometimes even shut down spontaneously, like Los Angeles’ City High School, which deemed its facilities not fit for teaching in the middle of the school year [2].  As a result, 116 students were displaced, left “scrambling to make other arrangements” [2].

But every student needs to be able to know with certainty that they can go to school every day—all children in the United States have the right to a public education. And charter schools certainly need to be held to the same standard as public schools.

Whether or not charter schools provide any benefit to students is still contested. It’s too hard to say at a glance if charter schools provide an educational advantage to students or not, due to differences in student demographics; overall, however, there has not been much of a difference in test scores [3].

Ridge kids are on the fence. Jessie Kransdorf ‘18 thinks charter schools are a good idea: “They’re helpful because they take kids out of bad public schools. Overall, it’s helping their education.” There are many supporters of charter schools who cite the helpful alternative it provides to struggling students. For some, charter schools are a great new option and a helpful opportunity that can lead to a brighter future for students. Charter schools are great—but only in theory.

Mason Krohn ’20 tells it best, commenting, “I definitely think more regulation is needed.”

Examples like City High show us that the system does fall apart in practice. Instead of providing alternatives to public schools, the government needs on working to fix them, so we can have a strong, undivided education system in America. After all, when it comes to education, the children come first and the profit comes second. Only when we can guarantee that everyone is getting a quality education can we worry about anything else.

Here in Basking Ridge, we should be grateful for the education we receive. We can wake up and go to school without worrying whether it’s still open or not. We can use the money we raise without having it siphoned away by other schools. Although charter schools and the future of American education are important topics, we’re lucky that we don’t have to consider this debate in our town right now.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/20/a-dozen-problems-with-charter-schools/

[2] http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-city-high-20160915-snap-story.html

[3] http://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/charter-schools-vs-traditional-public-schools-which-one-is-under-performing