A public charter school is a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract (or charter) with the state or jurisdiction. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards stated in its charter. A school's charter is reviewed periodically (typically every 3 to 5 years) by the group or jurisdiction that granted it and can be revoked if guidelines on curriculum and management are not followed or if the standards are not met.
- Goal: Increase the number of educational choices open to students
- Goal: Increase the utilization of education facility space
- Goal: Increase the retention of effective educators
- Goal: Provide an effective organizational structure to manage educational institutions
- Goal: Increase school autonomy
Springfield is an urban school district with 130,000 students. For elementary school and junior high school/middle school, students are sent to the school that is geographically closest to their homes. Schools that are in the poorer areas of Springfield have historically produced below-average student outcomes (e.g., low literacy rates, low standardized test scores). Low socio-economic residents of Springfield do not have the means to move to a wealthier part of city or send their children to private school. In an effort to provide more options to these families, the Springfield Board of Education became an a charter school authorizer. This gave them the ability to accept applications for new charter schools, set the success metrics, and close the schools if they are not performing. The new charter schools were concentrated in the areas with the highest concentration of poverty in Springfield. Some of the charter schools performed better than their local district counterparts. Others performed similarly. Still others performed worse. Those that consistently performed worse were put on improvement plans and then ultimately closed if they did not improve.
Some of the charter schools in Springfield raised outside philanthropy and used that money to create new school buildings. Most charter schools shared building space with district schools. Many of the large school buildings in Springfield had underutilized space, which the charter schools were able to use.
Since the charter schools were given an exemption from regulations like teacher compensation, they were able to change the teacher compensation plan to pay their newer teachers more money. They were also able to provide performance bonuses for teachers that were able to demonstrate student growth over the course of the year. The charter schools made these policy changes in order to retain their most effective teachers.
Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:
- Teachers are much more likely to be at-will employees rather than union members. This gives schools more flexibility in hiring but removes collective bargaining power from teachers.
- Authorizers must close charter schools that under-perform, which can be a politically unpopular decision locally.
- Philanthropists may favor funding individual charter schools or charter management organizations rather than the local education authority.
If answered yes, the following questions indicate conditions under which the policy may be most effectively implemented:
- Is there demand for alternative school models not attainable in the current system?
- Does the legal context of the jurisdiction authorize the creation of charter schools?
- Are the above-cited tradeoffs less likely than usual to be applicable in the given context?
The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:
- What public funding will be provided to new charter schools?
- What facility space will be used for new charter schools?
- What policy, if any, will the charter school have about accepting donations from wealthy philanthropists?
Relevant entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
Relevant entities who support or are likely to support this policy include:
Relevant entities who oppose or are likely to oppose this policy include:
- What is a Charter School? A primer on charter schools from Vox Media.
- National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed 2/19/2015.