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Charter Schools Are Overrated

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Live Transcript
  • Chairman Robert Rosenkranz introduction for charter schools

    Clip: Chairman Robert Rosenkranz introduces the topic, and highlights the issues to be discussed on charter schools.

  • What effect have charters schools had on traditional public schools?

    Clip: Debaters discuss the positive and negative effects of charter schools on traditional public schools.

  • Are charter schools transparent enough?

    Clip: Debaters discuss the accountability of charter schools, and their transparency.

  • If traditional public schools cease to exist, how will charter schools pick up the slack?

    Clip: Debaters discuss the role of charter schools if traditional public schools were no longer viable.

Debate Details

The Charter School Debate

In the 25 years since Minnesota passed the first charter school law, these publicly funded but privately operated schools have become a highly sought-after alternative to traditional public education, particularly for underserved students in urban areas. Between 2004 and 2014 alone, charter school enrollment increased from less than 1 million to 2.5 million students. Many charter schools boast of high test scores, strict academic expectations, and high graduation rates, and for some, their growth is evidence of their success. But have these schools lived up to their promise? Opponents argue that charters, which are subject to fewer regulations and less oversight, lack accountability, take much-needed resources from public schools, and pick and choose their student body.  Are charter schools overrated? 

The Debaters

For the motion

Gary Miron

Professor, College of Education, Western Michigan University

Gary Miron is Professor in Evaluation, Measurement, and Research at Western Michigan University.  He has extensive experience evaluating school... Read More

Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig

Professor, Sacramento State & Founding Board Member, Network for Public Education

Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning teacher, researcher, and blogger. He is currently a professor of educational leadership and policy studies... Read More

Against the motion

Jeanne Allen

Founder & CEO, The Center for Education Reform

Jeanne Allen is the pioneering visionary at the forefront of school choice success stories through the nation. Jeanne founded the Center for Education... Read More

Gerard Robinson

Resident Fellow, AEI & Former Florida Commissioner of Education

Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he works on education policy issues including choice in public and... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
Unlike traditional public schools, charter schools can choose who attends through complex admissions processes and attrition stemming from strict performance and disciplinary standards.
Many charter schools do not answer to local school boards and are not subject to the same levels of accountability and transparency as traditional public schools.
Academic outcomes at charters have largely been found to be comparable to those of traditional public schools.  While some do better, even more have been found to do worse.
Charter schools are exacerbating the re-segregation of our schools by race and income.
Against The Motion
Greater autonomy and flexibility gives charter schools the opportunity to innovate and demand more from both their teachers and students.  
Charter schools are accountable to the communities they serve, and it is the demand for admission that determines their success or failure.
Charter schools don't discriminate by zip code. They promote equality by accepting all students that want to attend--when they're oversubscribed, through need-blind lotteries.
Studies have found that low-income students benefit from attending charter schools, and that overall, charter school students do better on standardized tests.

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The Research

The Research

National Charter School Study

This report provides an updated and expanded view of charter school performance in the United States. 

A dozen problems with charter schools

Valerie Strauss
May 20, 2014

School reformers keep talking about charter schools as if they were the answer to public education’s problems, when there is a great deal of evidence that shows big problems with the charter sector.

Charter Schools Are Reinventing Local Control in Education

Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno and Brandon L. Wright
September 5, 2016

Charters are supplanting the union-dominated school board model. The big winners are students.

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