As long as there have been charter schools, there have been those who have predicted that expanding the publicly funded but privately managed schools of choice would harm traditional public schools. They argued that charter schools would rob traditional public schools of resources and the most promising students.
A 2018 article in The Nation, for example, warned that charters are “the perfect weapon to destroy our public school system.” From my own experience, I recall being approached by a neighbor as I waited for a train to take me to the city from our wealthy suburb, with its famously excellent public school district. She handed me a leaflet and told me that voting in favor of a state referendum to allow charter schools to expand in areas where they had met their cap would be a vote against public education.
And yet charter schools expanded anyway. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of charter schools increased by 33 percent and the number of charter school students increased by 68 percent.
This expansion raises a question: If the Cassandras who predicted that charters would be the doom of public schools are right, shouldn’t the public school system be destroyed by now? But overall scores on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress for students enrolled in traditional public schools have remained steady over the past decade. Indeed, many of the same folks warning about the negative impact of charters are the first to tell us that public schools are doing just fine.
Marcus Winters is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an associate professor at Boston University, and author of the new report, “Do Charter Schools Harm Traditional Public Schools?” Follow him on Twitter here.
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