Charter Schools [Pros and Cons]

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Charter schools are growing in popularity as they crop up in more communities throughout the country. While they try to combine the best characteristics of both traditional public schools and privately funded schools, the primary reason they are gaining attention is the the choice that they provide.

Before charter schools, low income families had little or no choice in selecting schools for their children. Now, families have that choice, but, just like any educational system, there are both benefits and disadvantages. 

Charter schools: a classroom.

The Pros of Charter Schools

Teachers Have More Flexibility

In traditional public schools, teachers are compelled to abide by a strict educational format. This means students must adapt to an outline that may not offer them the best chances for learning. Conversely, charter schools let the teachers develop and adapt lesson plans to suit their students. This customizable approach allows teachers to devote additional time to more complex topics, or to implement different teaching methods to help students absorb the material. 

Each School Offers a Different Experience

Once you’ve visited one public school in your community, you pretty much know what to expect from the rest of them. The same can’t be said of the charter schools in your community, since each one offers different educational choices. One school might focus on STEM learning, while another might place more emphasis on vocational learning. Many schools choose a specific theme or area of interest, which can make it easier to help a child get an education that will strengthen his or her talents. There are college prep schools, schools for autistic children, and many other themes to help parents give their children the best possible educational experience. 

Charter Schools are Free to Try New Approaches

Public schools are restricted in how they teach students by state regulations, but charter schools don’t have to adhere to those some restrictions. This means they can try new and innovative methods with students and many do take advantage of this freedom. Some create outdoor classrooms, so students can spend more of each day outside. Other options implemented by many schools include online learning, or a focus on adapting technology to the learning process. 

Charter schools: pieces of colour chalk.

College Admissions are on the Rise

Year by year, more charter school students are admitted into top colleges than students in public schools. Many people credit this fact to the diverse curriculums and innovative teaching methods offered at these schools. Instead of the one size fits all approach found in public schools, charter schools customise lessons to the needs of the students. This may make it easier for students to learn, especially where complex topics are concerned. 

Charter Schools Generate More Parental Involvement

One of the biggest problems with public schools is the lack of parental involvement. It has become such a big problem that public school teachers send home graded tests and homework assignments, which must be signed by the parent and returned to school. Conversely, charter schools look for more positive ways of encouraging parental involvement. They often take the approach that education is a team effort, requiring participation from teachers, students, and parents together. 

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Charter Schools Offer More Diversity

Since they aren’t required to abide by state regulations, they can admit any students in the community. This means each class will be comprised of a more diverse population, allowing students to interact with different cultures. In this way, students supplement classroom education with social learning, enhancing the educational experience. As students form new friendships, they bring a greater understanding of diversity back into their own communities. 

The Cons of Charter Schools

Charter Schools Rely on Government Funding

Since charter schools are funded by local and state governments, they’re considered to be public schools. This also helps them qualify for federal grants, but the funding they receive isn’t always enough to finance the educational and extracurricular activities they offer to students. As a result, many schools turn to fundraising events to help support their operating budgets. By raising money through public donations, charter schools remain tuition-free, enabling them to keep their public school status. Once they charge tuition, they may be considered a private school and will lose the government funding upon which the school relies. 


Charter Schools Aren’t Properly Regulated

While charter schools rely on government funding and public donations, there’s surprisingly little oversight in monitoring how that money is spent. The biggest problem this creates is reckless overspending that hurts the school’s ability to operate on a daily basis. In some instances, school administrators overspend before the doors even open, causing the school to fail before it can accept a single student. On top of overspending, they can be sabotaged through corruption and embezzlement. Without a proper watchdog system in place, the unmonitored funding presents too tempting a target. 

Charter Schools Buck the System

To be fair, every school, public and private, acts in its own best interests and that’s just expected. The problem is that public schools can’t turn away any student, while charter schools have more freedom. They typically set up an admission policy that prohibits students with poor performance records to attend. As a result, there’s a disproportionately higher number of poorly performing students in public schools. Since funding is partially determined by student performance, this causes public schools to lose funding. When peoperty taxes spike, it’s usually to compensate for this loss of funding. 

Teachers Can Be Overworked

Another problem with charter schools is that they may not be required to abide by labor laws, depending on the regulations in your state. This is why their teachers face 70 hour work weeks without appropriate compensation in some areas. This is an issue that affects students and their parents, as well as teachers. When teachers are burdened with too much responsibility, mistakes happen and the quality of the education is compromised. 

Online Learning Isn’t Always the Best Choice

While online learning has opened up a world of opportunity for many adult students, younger students lack the discipline that this option requires. It means taking responsibility for attending online classes and turning in assignments on time. Since parents don’t often get directly involved in this process, the lack of supervision becomes a problem in itself. Students may not learn adequately to pass the class as a result of this situation. 

Space is Limited

Each charter school will only accept a limited number of students per semester. Contributing to the lack of space is the popularity of this option for low income families. As a result, charter schools basically run a lottery with a majority of families in the community competing for space. This means very few applicants ever get admitted into such schools, leaving hundreds or thousands of families without academic choice. Even when the space is lacking in public schools, they must take in the rejected applicants. As a result, public schools are extremely overpopulated, while charter schools remain selective in their admissions process. 

While charter schools do offer advantages not found in other educational facilities, unique challenges also accompany these schools. In order to make the best decisions for their children, parents should be made fully aware of the pros and cons of them. This will help families choose more wisely. As more communities welcome charter schools, the ability to offer these institutions in an honest light will help parents feel confident in sending their children to charter schools.

School choice and charter schools

This article was originally posted on TFD Supplies.

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Savas Savides
Education born and bred. I have worked as a teacher for many private language schools, as a test centre administrator, as a teacher trainer, as an educational consultant, and as a publisher. I am an advocate for literacy and a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom. I have a BA in English and an MBA in Marketing. I mostly write about English Language Teaching. I live in sunny Athens.


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