NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bureaucratization and Federal Oversight are Stifling Charter Schools

May 15, 2014

According to Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Michael McShane, research fellow, large bipartisan support exists for establishing charter schools. On May 9, the House of Representatives passed the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act to provide federal funding to expand the charter system throughout the country.

Hess and McShane cite statistics demonstrating the widespread support for these schools:

  • Charter school enrollment has doubled since 2006.
  • 90 percent of students in New Orleans and 43 percent of students in Washington, D.C., are educated in charter schools.
  • More than 2.2 million K-12 students are enrolled in the 6,000 charter schools across the nation.

Children from low-income backgrounds have especially benefited from charter schools. According to a Stanford University study, students in charters outperform traditional public school students in reading, and students below the poverty line perform better in charter schools than in public schools on standardized tests. Unfortunately, bureaucratization and regulation endanger the charter school movement.

  • Of the eight schools that applied for charter status in D.C., not one application was shorter than 200 pages, with the longest being more than 700 pages.
  • New York, South Carolina, Florida, and Delaware did not exempt charter schools from state-wide evaluation systems, forcing them to use the same measurements as traditional public schools, even though they may value different criteria.
  • In New Orleans, charter schools have been pressured to adopt a standardized discipline system and a standardized enrollment procedure, posing a problem for schools with different approaches.

If this impulse to regulate is left unchecked, warn Hess and McShane, it's possible that a high achieving charter school of today could become a failing public school of tomorrow. Charters were intended as an alternative to traditional public schools, and constraining them in the way that we constrain public schools is not the way to improve education.

Source: Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane, "Loving Charter Schools to Death," American Enterprise Institute, May 9, 2014.


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