The spin out there on School Choice was out of control again this year for School Choice Week. On cue, well-funded union non-profit front groups continued to push their false talking points and in the process smear millions of parents and students.
On Twitter, the replies left on some School Choice tweets were filled with ridiculous amounts of misinformation. Reading some of them gave me a headache. It was as if these folks were re-heating leftover dog food, calling it gourmet stew and thinking somehow no one was going to tell them otherwise. Boy, were they wrong.
So, here I am setting the record straight on School Choice in NC. We have a lot of choices in this state – Charters, Homeschool, Private Schools, and Opportunity Scholarships. We now also have Education Savings Accounts (ESA), thanks to the General Assembly who overrode Governor Cooper’s veto.
I will hit each topic in turn but in this article, we’ll start with charter schools, since almost not a day goes by that I don’t come across someone isn’t posting totally wrong information about NC Charter schools on Facebook or Twitter. This has been done many times before and at least once by Lt. Governor Dan Forest, but it needs repeating again.
Let’s start with the tired lie that ‘Charter schools are stealing money from public schools’. This is false. Charters in NC do not ‘steal’ money from public schools because they ARE public schools.
Some Truth about Charters in NC
- Again, Charters are public schools, not private schools. Private schools are… well, private schools.
- They are underfunded compared to their traditional counterparts; on average receive $1,100 less per pupil. In some districts, the gap is far larger.
- Despite being underfunded, charters are doing more with less due to budget flexibility, smarter spending, and curriculum choices. That means charters are doing more with less and are, in fact, saving taxpayers money as a result.
- They consistently outperformed their traditional counterparts on state math and reading tests. Go to the NC State Report Card website. Take a look for yourself and do the math.
- Charters have stricter accountability than their counterparts. Unlike traditional public schools, charters can, will and have been closed for a wide range of issues, including performance and finances. The body which approves and oversees charters is called the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB).
- While official oversight accountability is stringent, the strongest oversight actually comes from parents. If they are unsatisfied with results, they take their kid or kids elsewhere. That’s the beauty of choice – produce or be discarded.
- Enrollment continues to grow and demand has outpaced seats which have required charters to hold lotteries to attend.
- By law, must accept all types of students from all walks of life.
- By law, are required to use the same education standards adopted by the NC Board of Education.
- By law, are required to test their students using national standardized tests.
Some Charter Quick Facts
- The Charter School Act (House Bill 955) was ratified on June 21, 1996.
- Enrollment surpassed 100,000 in 2017-18; DPI reports approximately 100,866 students now enrolled in a charter. This number is comparable to the number of homeschool students in the state.
- As of mid-2017-18, there are 174 active charter schools in NC.
- Charters exist in all eight educational regions in the state. Rural area demands for charters are increasing.
- In 2016-17, only four LEAs in the state did not have students enrolled in a charter school.
- High demand for charter schools is evidenced by the large waitlists.
– Example: In 2017-18, over 37,000 students were on waitlists across 103 of the 174 charter schools. It is unclear if these waitlist numbers reflect possible overlapping applications.
View charter enrollment HERE.
Here are some Charter resources and websites that are particularly useful:
- NC Public Schools Office of Charter Schools
- NC Public Schools Charter School Applications
- NC Public Schools Charter School Legislation
- NC Public Charters
Some Parting Food For Thought
To the opponents of NC charter schools, please think about why you oppose them: Is it a knee-jerk political reaction? Are you repeating what you heard? Did you vet that information?
The idea that charters are hurting public education is false. Public education has been the proverbial walking wounded for the better part of thirty years in this country.
We’ve thrown money at it. We’ve thrown money at fads like Common Core and ‘New math’.
We’ve thrown legislation at it. Nothing has happened. The needle has stayed in the same position and has even dropped, as the latest PISA scores indicate.
That old saying, ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’ is what this nation has been doing for decades. The only thing that’s increased in education is administrative bloat and bureaucracy.
Glenn Reynolds has illustrated this better than anyone with his book The K-12 Implosion.
Parents see all of that. We also see and the rising levels of politically correct, social justice bullshit being pumped into our children’s classrooms.
Parents tired of overcrowding, red-tape, constant assignment changes in the name of ‘equity’ that is never defined – or worse, constantly redefined. They’re horrified by watching their kids turn into numbers. They want out. They want better for their kids and want to choose what that ‘better’ is.
A rising tide lifts all boats. School Choice is that tide. Untie yours from the dock.