Mike Goldstein posed this idea in the comments.*
Here’s some polling that supports Mike’s assertion.
- 70% of the public supports charters (note: this is insanely high for polling on anything).
- 48% of the public believes that charters are not public schools.
- 57% of the public believes that charters can charge tuition.
- 68% of the public believes that charters can select students on the basis of ability.
In sum: the public loves charter schools, but a significant portion of the public believes that charter schools are private, cost money, and select their students.
As someone who has spent a lot of time trying to ensure equity in the nation’s first charter school district, this data troubles me.
In New Orleans, we built a centralized enrollment, transfer, and expulsion system to ensure that charters schools were public in every sense of the word.
This is not to say that we eliminated all inequitable practices, but we made a real dent. And I believe New Orleans is a more equitable school system than perhaps any other urban public school system in the nation.
But what if the very reason many parents support charter schools is because they want these schools to be inequitable.
This is not irrational from an individual parent’s viewpoint. Parents might very well be drawn to schools where they believe low achieving students with behavioral issues are excluded.
All of this raises a serious question:
Will there be an inverse relationship between support for charter schools and the extent to which charter schools serve all students?
I hope not.
*To date, the comments on this blog have been great. Thanks to all those who have contributed.