Teachers’ unions complain about charter schools, but students at these schools succeed

With a new school year underway, there are 7,000 charter schools serving thousands of students across the country. And these public schools are able to meet the needs of students in a variety of ways: from traditional school days to online instruction to an online and in-person combination.

But according to The Washington Times article by Jonathan Butcher, not everyone is excited that students are succeeding in the learning environment that is right for them.

Charter schools have the flexibility to offer unconventional teaching methods the bureaucratic oversight of traditional districts and burdensome teacher-union contracts. In exchange, these schools operate with more transparency to parents and taxpayers. State officials can close charter schools that don’t meet academic goals or show clean financial audits each year.

These learning options have attracted the ire of unions. A recent Wall Street Journal column by a teachers union member in Los Angeles claimed charter schools’ success is an illusion because they have “admission policies [that] exclude low-performing students.”

Reality is far different. I taught at a Title I charter school serving predominantly low-income families with students who often came from traditional public schools that weren’t meeting their needs, and they fell behind. My school worked tirelessly to raise low-performing students’ test scores. And their test scores improved. When given the right tools, academic growth was imminent.

According to Butcher, charter schools can be just what a student needs.

These schools are helping students across the U.S. A 2009 study of charter schools in New York City found that students outperformed their district school peers in math and reading. Researchers found similar results in Boston among charter schools that admit students by lottery. In 2011, Mathematica researchers found positive outcomes across 15 states for students from low-income families attending inner-city charter schools with these admission practices.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, charter schools are more likely to have higher concentrations of minority students than traditional schools, and a higher percentage of charter schools are considered high-poverty than traditional schools.

And charters are proof that spending more money on education does not equate to improved academic achievement.

In large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, charter schools receive an average of $5,800 less per child than district schools, according to a recent University of Arkansas study. In fact, in The Journal contributor’s home city of Los Angeles, the funding gap between traditional schools and charter schools widened from 2003 to 2016.

… [A] 2014 study of Los Angeles charter schools found that, on average, charter students “gain an additional 50 days of learning in reading and an additional 79 days of learning in math” compared with students in the district’s traditional schools.

If teachers’ unions are truly trying to be the leading advocate for students, as they often claim, then they should support public education—charter schools included—and other education learning environments that help students succeed and reach their fullest potential.