Are Charter Schools Helping Or Not?

There are over 6,000 charter schools all over the United States. In 1992, the first ever charter school in the country opened in the state of Minnesota. The City Academy High School in Saint Paul caters to 117 students today.

What is a charter school? A charter school is a public learning institution funded by the public and managed by teachers, parents, or community groups. Charter schools have been given a written grant by the country’s legislative and sovereign power. In other words, these schools have the freedom to make use of the resources they have to educate their students. Charter schools are open to all children, free of tuition, and with no entrance exams. These schools provide education to people who can’t afford sending their kids to school.

In some reports, charter schools have produced high-achieving students who are able to compete in the best universities in the country. In another view, charter schools are considered the reason for the deterioration of public schools. There has been an argument on whether charter schools are good or bad for students.

In a recent survey by the K-12 education journal, the percentage of adults who support charter schools decreased from 51% to 39%. Union groups in the US have also rallied against charter schools, which they assumed were only operating for profit and not for the education of students. However, some reports show that charter schools in other states are able to educate their students with international studies, including creative and analytical subjects.

The Survival of Charter Schools

Unlike public and private schools, charter schools are more flexible when it comes to budget, staffing, curriculum, and activities. Recent statistics have revealed that three out of five students who graduate from charter schools are successful in college and are able to receive their degree. The main reason why charter schools are still active throughout the US is because they provide results. However, those results don’t automatically apply to all charter schools in the country. Experts consider the education path of most charter schools as a strategic goal. The vital factor for these schools is the educators, notably their passion and their efficiency in educating kids at a level that can match that of the top schools in the country.

Another factor that keeps charter schools going is the consistent problem with poverty. These schools don’t demand much in terms of finances. Low-earning families are able to send their children to these schools and still keep up with all the necessary payments. There have been many success stories in recent years, especially with African-American students who study in charter schools in California.

The funding for charter schools is a combination of state aid and local funds. The same funding applies to public schools. As such, it is a given fact that there is competition between the two. It sounds unusual and wrong to actually argue or discuss who gets a larger share, but in reality, that is what happens in some cases. There have been several cases of State Auditors flagging down charter school funds because of the massive amount. Just recently, the New Mexico Public Education Department has questioned over $20 million of funding for charter schools in the state. After Legislation altered the Charter School Act in 2006, the school districts and the Public Education Department are able to withhold 2% of charter schools’ costs so that they can distribute administrative resources and assistance to the schools. However, there are different contracts for all states, although the difference is very minimal and is finalized after being agreed on by the state and the particular charter schools. That is what gives additional funding for them. With that, it is easy to assume that charter schools in high-earning states gain more than the average and low-earning ones. This leads to the following question: if these states are doing well economically and in terms of employment, then what is the reason for charter schools? Well, in the United States of America, no matter where you reside — no matter what area, street, state or city — there will always be a poor community. Some states are just able to develop their economy, employment, infrastructure, and other industries better compared to other states.

In this regard, there are two key factors that enable charter schools to survive — impressive results and funding. The instructors and the school administration should be able to provide an updated curriculum and educate the kids properly, so that when the students step out of the school, they would be capable of taking on the tertiary level with an arsenal of a broad and efficient knowledge.

Funding is also important. There have been several charter schools in the US that shut down their education program because of low or zero funding. Without any warning and out of nowhere, they closed their doors and left the students behind. In most cases, funding really runs low, especially when an individual school caters to only a small number of students. There are also cases where money is available but it is not being used to benefit the school and the students.

The Downfall of Charter Education

Most people in the US value the existence of charter schools. If a charter school suddenly closes, hundreds of students are left with no education. In the traditional public school, their school administration is well-organized, with a separate office responsible for specific tasks like sports, budget, school programs, and curriculum. This is not the case with charter schools. One of the biggest problems with them is the lack of transparency. Funding might be presented in reports, but not the budget plan. Others do present a budget blueprint, but in some instances, the budget plan’s total amount is only a quarter of the entire funding.

Charter school controversies occur almost every day. The biggest issue is employees who steal funding from the school. In January, 2017, a woman was arrested in Lakeland for stealing over $100,000 from the Seth McKeel Academy. In North Carolina, there have been reports of charter schools hiring teachers without licenses to save money. Some schools, which recently closed down, still have debts to state foundations. These debts run to massive amounts due to the overstatement of enrollments. These reports have sparked a number of protests and campaigns to revise charter school laws and in some cases, to put an end to charter school education.

By being able to fully design their school function in every aspect, charter school employees get the chance to implement a funding system or financial distribution method of their own. That gives them the choice to either utilize the money for the students or to keep it for themselves. This leads to some schools not being able to achieve the education goals they promised to the parents and the community.

It’s almost automatic for a scandal to surface when every state audit report comes out. This is what tarnishes the image of charter schools in the US. Just like in politics, if people are given the power to manipulate money, they make sure to get the biggest amount. It is also no mystery that charter schools are struggling to keep up with the innovation phase of education. Smart computers, high-tech classrooms, and new equipment for teaching are being introduced every day.

Education Pushing Forward

A large number of public and charter school students graduate. However, it’s sad that a large number of these students don’t have the money or resources to enter the college level. One in ten students can’t afford to pursue a college education, and 10% of those who can are likely to drop out. Remember that charter school students come from low-earning families.

In the US, even average earners find it hard to stay in college, and if they do, they are most likely to avail of student loans. Some are lucky enough to receive scholarships and that is why charter school students demand the best education possible. This is not to sound too subjective, but the common notion of a great teacher changing a student’s life is true. According to the latest news poll, over 12% of support for charter schools has been dropped. Many people are losing faith in them because of the consistent failure to produce impressive figures, although it is fair to say that several charter schools show great educational attainment.

Most high-achieving charter schools are based in the state of Arizona. Among these elite charter schools are BASIS Scottsdale (100% graduation rate), BASIS Tucson North (98% graduation rate), BASIS Chandler (98% graduation rate), and BASIS Peoria (97% graduation rate). This is what the students, parents, the government, and the public expect from the other charter schools. Unfortunately, not all can deliver.

A Better Charter School Strategy

Several studies all over the world have revealed that success doesn’t always come in knowledge and in being academically inclined. Technical skill sets or vocational skills are also important when it comes to establishing a better education or career. In countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany, vocational education and programs are taking over with their extensive education curriculum. Students learn various skills for particular industries like construction, publication, automotive, mining, manufacturing, technology, and more. Vocational programs are affordable and mostly funded by private organizations and government entities. Charter schools should adopt this idea of teaching and add more hands-on lessons for students.

In charter schools, it is true that the teachers are accountable for the education they provide to their students, but they are not accountable for when the school is downgrading or showing poor performance. This is a major concern. As such, it would be advisable for charter schools to be monitored by a state government entity or an individual department. All funding should also be overseen by a watchdog commission to promote honesty and credibility. If the problem lies in the people handling the money, then the solution is to hire good people to handle the management and distribution of funds. It is a simple solution but still difficult to execute.

Another common notion is that of money being the root of all evil. No, evil lies within the man who holds the money. Money is a resource for success, if handled with concern. Charter schools are approved by legislatures of the government, so the government might as well take it all the way. However, it is important to maintain the zero or low tuition fee for students. Charter schools should also be able to participate in academic and sports competitions in the national level. It is very possible for students who study in charter schools to show more promise than those who study in private schools.

Conclusion

Right now, charter schools are not perceived as the good guys helping the less privileged — not all of them, but many of them are. Some people move to states with great charter schools, but only a few people do. The public initially supported charter schools when they were first introduced in the early 1990s. Now, the public is protesting about the broken promises and loose ends that these schools left behind. There is an immediate need to revise the policies and conditions applied to these schools. There is also a need for a better funding strategy, especially for low-employment and low-earning states. Donation is a good way to start. There are hundreds of organizations in America that generate money from people and then distribute them to charter schools. There are over 6,800 charter schools in the United States, and there are over 300 million people. If donation becomes a common method to fund charter schools, then a lot of them will be able to provide better education to their students, hire licensed teachers, and build better facilities. These students are in need of massive aid, especially financially. Maybe it’s time for everyone to use their money to do the right thing. Right now, the US is dealing with problems in every corner, including terrorism, warfare, and an economic slump. A better education for everyone will really make America great again. Your initiative will also cause a ripple effect. With more students going to school, more will surely enter the tertiary level. With the rising number of college students, the nation’s productivity will increase.

If you want to help make education more accessible, visit http://www.borderlesscharity.org for more information.

Sources

Gurney-Read, J. (2014, December 3). One in 10 students ‘can’t afford to continue at university’. The Telegraph. Retrieved from

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-finance/11268722/One-in-10-students-cant-afford-to-continue-at-university.html

Los Angeles Daily News. (2017, August 30). Unions’ anti-charter-school rhetoric is wrong but effective.

Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20170830/unions-anti-charter-school-rhetoric-is-wrong-but-effective

Sampson, K. (2017, August 31). Maine charter school students head back to the classroom.

WGME. Retrieved from: http://wgme.com/news/local/maine-charter-school-students-head-back-to-the-classroom

Terrel, S. (2017, August 29). State auditor flags $20M in charter school funds. Santa Fe New Mexican.

Retrieved from http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/state-auditor-flags-m-in-charter-school-funds/article_13ca774e-4afb-5f33–991e-1f00566c2599.html

Whitmire, R. (2017, July 26). Exclusive: Data show charter school students graduating from college at

three to five times national average. The 74 Million. Retrieved from

https://www.the74million.org/article/exclusive-data-shows-charter-school-students-graduating-college-at-three-to-five-times-national-average/

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