How California’s Charter Schools Are Failing The Test
Charter schools’ overall report cards have not been so stellar.
When the Great Public Schools Now Initiative, the $490 million blueprint to turn half of Los Angeles’ public school system into charter schools, was first leaked to Los Angeles Times reporter Howard Blume, it triggered an uproar among the city’s education community. The Los Angeles Unified School District already has more charter seats than any school system in the country, though at a lower percentage (about 16 percent) of total enrollment than Oakland’s — which, at roughly 25 percent, is proportionally the state leader. And like Oakland, and many other urban school systems in the U.S., LAUSD is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
This comes at a time when charter-supporting philanthropists, led by the Broad, Walton Family and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, have been aggressively pushing charter schools across the country under the banner of “parent choice.” The initiative, which originally surfaced with a cover letter signed by Eli Broad and is often referred to as the Broad Plan, argues its case by charging that the country’s “urban school districts are not serving students. This failure is particularly acute for low-income and minority students who are in the greatest need of a quality education.” But contrary to the plan’s claims, the charters’ overall report card has not been so stellar.
According to University of Colorado, Boulder professor Kevin G. Welner and others, charters have been shown to offer no tangible academic advantages over traditional public schools. Welner, who is director of the National Education Policy Center, told Capital & Main, “If we’re talking about test scores, we’re not seeing any real meaningful differences between charter schools as a whole and noncharter public schools.”
Today there are about 1,230 charter schools statewide (or seven percent of the state’s K-12 enrollment), with 80 new schools opening in the 2015-16 school year alone, 21 of which were in Northern California. The 27 that opened in Los Angeles put it first in the state for growth. The Great Public Schools Now Initiative calls for 260 more charters to be created in the city by 2023. Capital & Main has since How California's Charter Schools Are Failing The Test: