The New York State Legislature refused to increase the number of Charter Schools from the existing 100 to 250, as Governer Pataki demanded. Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City and Joel Klein, Chancellor of th DOE are all strong supporters of the Charter Schools and this is a major victor for the NYC public school system. Why is this important? Well at least 80 of the extra 150 Charter Schools would have been located in New York City, further weakening the NYC public school system. All three politicians would use public school money to fund the Charter Schools and further limit funding for the public schools. In fact, the city's priority is to push for charter/small schools and starve the rest of the public schools. Moreover, the charter/small schools are given space in the public schools adding to overcrowding in the large schools, especially the large high schools.
To the uninformed Charter Schools are schools that take public money but are not subject to DOE regulations and don't need to be unionized. Their only subject to the condition that the school shows that they are meeting State standards in educating the students. If the story ended here how could anybody be against Charter Schools? Well, here is the problem, despite all the advantages the Charter Schools have over the public schools they compete with, they show no improvement academically. How can that be given the advantages the Charter Schools have? Listed below are these advantages given to a Charter School.
First, the Charter Schools have smaller class sizes, the Charter Schools usually have between 15-20 students per class while the public schools have between 28-34 per class. The smaller the classes, the better the students learn.
Second, the Charter Schools, while using a blind lottery to select their students, requires parent interaction and support. Parents who don't follow closely their child's education, don't bother to apply to Charter Schools. In fact many Charter Schools require parent involvement as a condition of their child's acceptance to the schools.
Third, the Charter Schools have much more strict discipline codes. Student misbehavior can and does result in that student being expelled from the Charter School. By contrast the DOE does not even allow public schools to suspend students or send them to another school.
Fourth, almost all Charter Schools have longer days and even Saturday school. Meaning students are in an educational setting for longer periods of time and therefore, increased learning.
Finally, the Charter Schools, like the small schools, don't have to take their fair share of students with special needs or limited English learners. They simply tell parents of these children (assuming many actually apply) that as a new school they don't have the funds, teachers, and equipment to work with these high-maintanence children.
You would think that with all these advantages, the Charter Schools would blow away the Public Schools? However, with some exceptions (KIPPS) this is not the case. Why? It's really simple. Poor Administration and inexperienced teachers who get burned out due to the increased demands on them.
Many of the Charter Schools are run by private organizations who usually try to run the school as a private business. The result? the administration is usually sparce and they quickly find out that the students are not widgets and each child needs some sought of guidance and that the school is not usually prepared to deal with these issues. Worse are the teachers that are hired. Many of them are not certified, most are inexperienced, and some are failed teacher from the public schools. Further, the teachers are overworked, threatened (no union protection), and abused. Teacher quality, to say the least , is very uneven. Furthermore, the teachers find that they must teach many different subjects and for longer periods of time. The result is teacher burnout and teacher turnover. It may be nice that the administration can fire a teacher at their leasure but the dirty little secret is that high quality and experienced teachers are not knocking at the door to be abused in the Charter School environment. Even the successful Charter Schools (KIPPS) have serious teacher retention problems that are only partially handled by large salaries for the additional work. Finally, increased instruction does not always translate into better academics. Here, "the law of diminishing returns" applies as worn-out terachers and bored students cry enough and just go through the motions.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the Charter Schools are in serious trouble. The City of Denver is so disgusted with the charter/small schools that they are thinking of closing them down. All of them! If the public schools had the same advantages of the Charter Schools, the public schools would blow them away. However, even with the advantages the Charter Schools have statistically, they show no improvement academically with the public schools they compete with.