by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
I strongly oppose proposed rules that would impose onerous and ultimately harmful requirements for competitive grants under the federal Charter Schools Program.
The proposed “community impact analysis” is among the most objectionable of the proposed Charter Schools Program regulations. I do not believe that anonymous grant reviewers will offer fair and meaningful analyses employing qualitative, quantitative, and survey data to assess the actual educational and economic effects of public charter schools in a community.
As a member of the North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board, I have reviewed dozens of impact statements submitted as part of the charter school application process. Unsurprisingly, most charter school “impacts” described by districts in these documents feature lists of recycled grievances about increased competition, which is the presumptive response from those supporting institutions exposed to very little of it.
The typical objection in an impact statement is that a competitive educational market will allow per-student allotments to follow children to their schools of choice. This is undeniably true and far from the point. Implicitly, such objections signal an interest in securing the district’s financial interests rather than meeting children’s academic and social-emotional needs. Indeed, parents who find their district-assigned school to be satisfactory will have no desire to seek alternatives. More importantly, if the demand did not exist, my North Carolina Charter Schools Advisory Board colleagues and I would have no justification for recommending the approval of new charter schools.
Additionally, regulations that give priority to Charter Schools Program applicants that “partner” with a school district ignore instances when such cooperation is not possible. While voluntary charter-district partnerships facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, there are few incentives for a school district to accept a proposed collaborative agreement with a charter school. After all, charters are their direct competitor for students and resources. Incompatible missions, political barriers, logistical factors, and other practical concerns impede successful partnerships between districts and charter schools.
All public charter schools should qualify for Charter Schools Program grants without sacrificing the essential freedoms granted to them to operate in ways that benefit the students they serve.
All public charter schools should qualify for Charter Schools Program grants without sacrificing the essential freedoms granted to them to operate in ways that benefit the students they serve. These latest efforts to find new ways to slam the federal regulatory sledgehammer on the citizens, educators, and entrepreneurs – the people who form the core of the charter school movement – will satisfy the education establishment. But these politically motivated regulations will harm the millions of children who receive an outstanding education in public charter schools.
The most sensible public policy response to public charter schools is simple: leverage federal funds to support promising instructional models, teaching methods, and institutional configurations that benefit children regardless of the objections of entrenched interests seeking to crush successful alternatives.