For all the problems Atlanta Public Schools have had, charter schools are something the district has done right, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen told a conference this year in New Orleans, the epicenter of the modern charter school movement.
Atlanta has the highest proportion of independent charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, of any large Georgia district.
In fact, Atlanta is one of the top ten cities nationally for “school choice”—a category that includes charter schools as well as private-school vouchers and public magnet schools— according to a new ranking from the Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that advocates for school choice.
That puts Atlanta in the same category as cities like Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, where traditional public schools were supplanted by a district of charter schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
But critics say being “choice-friendly” isn’t something for Atlanta to be proud of.
“That’s like saying Chicago is the most murder friendly-city in the nation,” said Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers.