Until now, Kentucky has been wise enough to be one of a few states to not permit charter schools, and for many good reasons. I plead with our legislature to keep it that way. Since I know you want the best for our children, I urge lawmakers to try something else first, and here’s why.
Foremost, charter schools take money away from public schools to operate their programs.
For example, if a school district receives $12,000 per child and a charter school enrolls, say, 100 kids, then $1.2 million — the equivalent to salaries for 24 teachers — would need to be handed over to the charter school from public-school funds.
When a few kids transfer to a charter school from a public school — two or three from this class, one or two from that class — the cost of instruction remains the same. While the public school cannot eliminate a teacher when the class size goes from, say 23 to 20, the costs for that school do not go down, but the funding is decreased.
Therefore, the school district must cut budgets, which reduces the ability to provide quality education. This means fewer teachers, deferred maintenance or some other vital expenditures need to be cut.
This cannot be good for our kids.
The second reason is that charter schools are not needed to improve education in Kentucky. We have already seen exceptional collaboration among public school superintendents in creating innovative programs that can make new inroads to quality education. Exciting new-age education is taking place today at ILEAD Academy in Carrollton and the Owensboro Innovation Academy.
See how these creative programs are transforming public education at www.ket.org/episode/KEDMA_000802/.
Another reason: All over America, charter schools are often involved in fraud and misuse of public funds. Charter owners can pay themselves lush salaries, can pay Uncle Joe $20,000 to watch the door, buy $15 pencils from Aunt Betsy or rent school space from a brother-in-law for outrageous rents. Go to charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com to see many hundreds of cases of charter school fraud.
Finally, the clear majority of charters have a poor academic record compared to public schools, partly because they often do not require certified teachers. And while charter proponents point out problems with public schools with the tacit assumption that charter schools will solve those problems, facts emphatically counter this claim.
The nation’s report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is administered by the U.S. Department of Education every two years to measure student academic ability. In math and reading tests in grades 4, 8 and 12, over the last eight years, public schools outscored charter schools in every category, every year.
And when comparing test scores between poor- and middle-class children, public schools again outscored charter schools. So the claim that charters rescue kids from failing public schools is usually not true.
In Ohio, in 2010, only 10 percent of charter-school children scored proficient, as opposed to 40 percent in public schools. And in 2012, while 12 percent of public schools were graded poorly as D or F, 64 percent of charter schools got D’s or F’s.
The advantage that charter proponents point to is added flexibility and choice. But now, Kentucky public schools have been given comparable flexibility so there is no reason to implement charter schools when public schools can do the same things, with strong controls, but without the potentially negative consequences.
Instead of implementing charter schools, the Kentucky Board of Education and school districts can encourage and help to unleash the inherent creativity within our public schools, invigorate exciting new programs and make our schools the best that they can be.
Marty Solomon, a retired University of Kentucky professor, can be reached at email@example.com.