NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 22, 2008

America's first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992.  Sixteen years later, there are 4,128 charter schools educating 1.24 million students in 40 states and the District of Columbia.  Another 300 to 400 are expected to open in the coming school year.

Charter schools are public schools, but they are very different, says Pete du Pont, chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis and a former governor of Delaware:

  • The Center for Education Reform's 2008 Annual Survey reports that responding charter schools are one-third smaller than conventional public schools, with about 348 students, compared with 521.
  • They spend less -- about $7,625 per student, compared with $9,138 in public schools -- and they receive only about 61percent of the per pupil government funding that other public schools receive.
  • They nevertheless offer longer school days, longer school years, often performance--based pay for teachers and more innovative curricula than conventional public schools.
  • The majority of charter school students are classified as minority (52 percent), at risk (50 percent) or low income (54 percent).

Most important, charter school students often outperform other public school students.

  • The Center for Education Reform reports that last year in Colorado, 73.3 percent of third- through eight-grade charter school students "performed at or above proficiency in reading, as opposed to 67.7 percent of conventional public school students."
  • In California charter middle school's median Academic Performance Index was 767, compared with 726 in traditional middle schools.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is strongly for school choice.  His Website says, "Public education should be defined as one in which our public support for a child's education follows that child into the school the parent chooses," and "school choice for all who want it, and expansion of Opportunity Scholarships . . . will all be a part of a serious agenda of education reform."

Source: Pete du Pont, "McCain Is the Pro-Choice Candidate; Obama would do the bidding of the teachers unions, and children would pay the price,", August 20, 2008.

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