The expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts should not be authorized because they have failed many children while escaping review and scrutiny. As long as charter schools receive public funding, they should not be able to operate in the same manner as a private entity. Charter schools most frequently appear in low income urban neighborhoods, with almost 60 percent of attendees living in these urban areas. Their proposed mission is to help underserved students achieve their highest potential by providing an alternative to the public school system. The differences between public and charter schools include a lack of teachers’ unions and governing structures, longer school days and various non-traditional enrollment methods. However, both systems receive funding from the same source, creating a divide that eventually fails to support the students that enroll in charter schools
Charter schools do not aim to serve all children and often have a rigorous selection process. In New York City, acceptance rates have dropped to an all-time low of 28 percent, rivaling that of nationally ranked universities. The application process can include essays, exams and interviews with both the student and family. Charter schools specifically select the students and families that they know will perform well. As a result, they can inflate their performance. However, this criteria is detrimental to most applicants who do not yet have the skills required for admission or whose families do not fit the bill of charter school engagement. A student could perform well on the academic portion of a charter school application, but if their family is unable to commit time to the school, they may be rejected. Charter schools often employ parents as volunteers, using them as activists to hold rallies at various city halls and state senate houses. In January 2016, 1,000 charter school parents from the New York metro area attended a rally at the state’s capital of Albany to promote legislation in favor of charter schools. This constant cycle of selecting the right applicants helps charter schools survive and thrive. As a result, many believe that charter schools are better than their public counterparts.
Even though charter schools select high-performing students to bolster their statistics, students who are found to underperform are in jeopardy of expulsion. Unlike public schools that are accountable for every student regardless of performance or ability, charter schools can expel students freely at will. Although private and parochial schools have the power to expel students, they do not receive government funding. It is a waste of government funds to allocate money to charter schools that will eventually expel students back into the public system. It would be more efficient to simply allocate all funds to public schools. If charter schools selectively accept and reject students, they are no longer serving students. Instead, they seek to serve themselves and lose sight of the goal of education. In a fair amount of cases, charter school networks have been found to be corrupt, falsely increasing numbers of enrollment to increase government funding. Because they are not held accountable, corruption within charter school system is only discovered after years of damage and negligence to students.
A fundamental feature of charter schools is that they lack teachers’ unions. This results in teachers working an increased amount of hours, as the charter school day is longer than the public school day by almost two hours. Teachers’ jobs and pay are decided at the whim of the principal or whomever runs the specific charter school organization. In addition, they face high termination rates without union protection as principals do not have to prove that a teacher is failing at their job to fire them. Therefore, teachers can be fired at any moment for any unspecified reason. The salaries that teachers receive from charter schools are dictated to them, instead of the collective bargaining that takes place when teachers are in unions. A heavy burden is forced upon teachers to perform very highly but for lower compensation than their public counterparts. The stress that these teachers face negatively impacts the children whom they are teaching. Working long hours can lead to fatigue, and the possibility of termination can lead teachers to focus on results, instead of engaged learning. Charter schools treat all those under the administration unfairly and worse than their public counterparts.
Even amidst the evidence against charter schools, many will claim that charters still function as havens to populations that are continuously underserved, mainly Black and LatinX urban children. However, these schools are not serving children properly. We should not create an unaccountable and potentially corrupt form of education in order to decrease the achievement gap between minority children and their white counterparts. Instead, we as a society should be working to better the public school system that all students have equal access to. Because charter schools reject most applicants, the applicants return fall to the same system which they rejected in the first place. If we focus on the public education of children, there will be no more need for charter schools.