Education Week

2 March 2017

Sarah Tully

Four experts faced off in a live debate Wednesday night on a range of issues that swirl around charter schools—whether for-profit schools work, what’s best for student achievement, and if charters lead to innovation.

But the discussion came down to a simple question: Are charter schools overrated? And the audience’s answer was “yes.”

The debate was put on by Intelligence Squared U.S., a nonprofit organization that hosts debates on controversial topics that have ranged from “Give Trump a Chance” to “Policing is Racially Biased.”

Online viewers, as well as the live audience, were asked to vote before and after the two-hour event in New York City.

The debaters “for the motion”—those in favor of charter reforms—were Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University education professor who has led charter school studies for the U.S. Department of Education and others, and Julian Vasquez Heilig, a California State University, Sacramento educational leadership professor and a founding member of the Network for Public Education. Vasquez Heilig spearheaded the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on new charter schools last year.

The debaters “against the motion”—those who support charters—were Jeanne Allen, the chief executive officer of the Center for Education Reform who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President Ronald Reagan; and Gerard Robinson, a former Florida education commissioner who was an education adviser to Trump.

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