Last month, after listening to proponents and opponents in seven cities, the task force advised continued caution around charters, concluding in this final report:
There are indeed some excellent charter schools – and where they provide high-quality education to all students without exclusions, they make a positive contribution. However, we also heard about the many poor charter schools that fail to serve children with the greatest needs, offer suboptimal education, and engage in financial mismanagement, sometimes pocketing public money to make a profit for private citizens. Further, we heard about the results of a loss of neighborhood schools when they are closed in order to create charters – the long bus rides for young children, the inability of parents to be engaged in schools far from their communities, and the loss of civil rights protections for children who cannot get into a school near their home and, in effect, have no real choice.
Parents and politicians have now had more than two decades to watch charter schools. Innovations in education are often met with enthusiasm and a bit of blind faith, which occurred in Georgia with charter schools and online instruction. I believe disappointing outcomes have diminished the initial zeal for both.
Yes, there are some strong charters in Georgia, just as there are strong traditional public schools. However, charters face the same challenges in high poverty communities that every school confronts. Operating as a charter doesn't automatically produce wondrous results, and that may be better understood now.
Here are some other interesting findings from the report: (It's a fascinating report with a lot of information so please read the entire thing if you can.)
Vouchers: Opposition to vouchers has declined. When asked whether they favor universal vouchers—giving vouchers to "all families" in order to give parents a "wider choice"—only 37% of the general public express opposition, down from 44% a year ago. Supporters, at 45%, now have a clear plurality. Opposition to vouchers for low-income parents to give them "wider choice" also fell, from 48% to 41%, while the level of support ticked upward from 37% to 41%.
Common Core: From 2013 through 2016, public support for the Common Core steadily eroded, from 65% to 42%. Meanwhile, opposition more than tripled, from 13% to 42%. Yet this year that downward trend has suddenly come to a halt (Figure 4). At 41%, the level of support shows no real change from a year ago. The percentage opposed, at 38%, also tracks closely to 2016. The escalating trend of opinion against Common Core may have run its course.
Testing: Support for testing and school accountability enjoys broad support not only across party lines, but also among parents and, in some instances, among teachers.
Nearly two thirds of the public favor the federal government's requirement that all students be tested in math and reading each year in 3rd through 8th grade and at least once in high school, and only 24% oppose the policy. Republican support (62%) and Democratic support (66%) are both strong. Parents of school-age children are just as supportive (63%) as the public at large. Teachers are an exception, however: a slight majority, 52%, oppose the annual testing requirement. Teacher opinion more closely resembles that of the broader public on the issue of allowing parents to opt out of state testing of students. Fifty-eight percent of teachers oppose allowing parents to opt out, which is close to the shares among the public (63%) and parents (55%).
Teacher salaries: When asked whether teacher salaries should be raised, no fewer than 61% of Americans are in favor. But when told what teachers currently earn, the level of support drops to 36%.