Make Kids Smarter With Charters
A charter school is required to meet the specific objectives set out in its charter — the ends — and in exchange the state gives it greater flexibility in its approach — the means — therefore, unlike traditional public schools, charter school principals can more easily hire, reward, penalize, and fire staff as well as assert greater control over the school curriculum.
In other words, charter schools operate more like a business whereas traditional schools operate more like a bureaucracy.
What type do you think performs better?
Common sense gives you one answer; common cause may give you another.
If you Google the answer then the top research papers and news articles will tell you that charter schools perform equal to traditional schools. End of story, right? After all, who would know better about education than the social scientists who work in it? We’re supposed to trust the science so surely if they were to be manipulative here then this would call into question all their other conclusions where they’re likely to have much less data at their disposal.
What shall it be?
Let’s begin by getting into icky partisan politics. How much easier life would be if everything was relative. We could shrug and say, “Both sides have a point,” which may win you applause or at worst not lose you many friends. If however you believed in truth with a solid worldview where you had a clear understanding of your priorities then you couldn’t shift like Jello whenever the truth tries to pin you down. Keep your mind murky enough and you can go the rest of your days being popular in the tribe you just so happened to be born into.
Education is thee most important political issue in a democracy. Priority #1.
The Teachers' Unions donate more to political campaigns than any other organization or corporation for which 95% of it goes to the Democratic Party. The US spends more money per student than virtually any country on Earth at $15K per student per year — $25K in my state — so that by the time the average kid graduates high school they can barely read, write, think, or calculate but they sure can vote Democrat. Success! We’ve had millions of dollars poured into our brains to make us leftwing and yet in this little essay I’m trying to undo all that indoctrination. Call it naiveté or faith in the human spirit.
So the reason the average traditional school performs roughly the same as the average charter school is because on average they receive 28% more funding per student and have 17% more white/asian students with 13% fewer students in high-poverty. Isn’t it convenient how the Left becomes colorblind to “white privilege” and socioeconomic differences to downplay the awesome gains charter schools have made for black and hispanic students? Shameful.
If you were to compare a traditional school to a charter school that receives about the same money per student and where the students come from a similar socio-economic background then the charter school blows the traditional school out of the water! It isn’t even close.
“The disparity in achieving Math proficiency was nearly seven to one.” — Thomas Sowell uses NY education data to compare 4,000+ charter school students to 4,000+ traditional school students who share the same buildings serving the same demographics.
But this essay isn’t about arguing the obvious, but asking why is it that virtually all right-wingers support charter schools and yet in the reddest of red states they are uncommon?
It’s because school choice hasn’t been enough of a priority for the Republican base. After all, most of us came out of the traditional school system. In fact, I liked the 1st grade so much I repeated it. Red state Republican politicians are virtually guaranteed reelection so long as they don’t vote to increase taxes too much, therefore, only once school choice becomes a top priority for the Republican base will its politicians find the courage to upset the very loud and powerful Teachers Unions.
“Charter schools are like many education reforms: They have broad but shallow support among a majority of the population and intense but narrow opposition from teachers unions and their allies.” — David Osborne
One of the bright sides of the pandemic is it gave parents a front-row seat to how much leftwing politics has seeped into the curriculum as teachers pass off leftwing narratives as the only narrative — history is written by the victors — but now their increasingly “woke” approach has become evermore absurd with CRT and gender theory to cause even centrist parents to increasingly demand change and therefore as a consequence: choice.
The way I see it there are two approaches: the incremental and the bold.
Approach 1: Incremental Action
Governors should create a new cabinet position so this way the Secretary of Charters wouldn’t be subservient to the Secretary of Education.
The funding for the Charter Department should be based on demand.
In every state there is currently more students who want to go to charter schools than there are spots to fill them therefore unfortunately their future has to be put in a lottery — evidence again charter schools perform better unless you believe self-licking academic papers know better than millions of parents for what’s best for their own children — therefore, so long as there is a lottery then the department’s budget should increase!
And then this way instead of ridiculously making charter schools ask school districts and/or Board of Educations for permission to compete against them, which about 32 states require, they’d apply to this independent charter department for permission as it’s done in 10 states.
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration sought to dangle $440 million dollars over charter schools to make them more subservient to school districts.
Parents should get at least 3 public school options so that, for example, they’d have their default school district, but then they could opt into a nearby district or charter school whereby schools should be required to accept at least 10% of students from outside their district because again the greatest indicator of a school’s success isn’t what academics say it is, but whether parents choose to put their greatest love there.
Approach 2: Bold Action
I highly recommend this for red states with the lowest high school graduation rates:
Texas (84% graduate)
What they’re doing clearly isn’t working so it’s about time they put their money where their mouth is by fully embracing school choice.
Make all public schools charter schools!
Obviously, you couldn’t just shut down every poorly performing public school as one would do with a charter that failed to meet its objectives so how it’d work is like with charters the state could set a 3-year objective where average test scores in reading, math, and civics must improve by say 3%. For every percentage above that a school’s staff could get a bonus and then if a school falls below 0% then everyone at that school should be fired, or more politely stated, “not rehired for the following school year,” and then some of the states top performing principles and teachers would be called in — at a hefty bonus — to rejuvenate it. The objective should be low enough so that only a few schools fall into this situation in any given year.
In order to increase accountability then not only would schools have to meet their objectives, but public-sector unions should obviously be abolished so that anyone in the hierarchy above can hire, fire, penalize, and promote anyone below.
I also believe in term limits so that, for example, if schools are judged on a 3-year basis then a term limit should be at most 3X that for any given job. They could move to a new role or school to restart the limit, but this would at least increase the system’s fluidity so no one gets too comfortable in a position of government power.
And even with traditional schools operating more like charter schools, we should still have a separate charter department to increase educational diversity.
And then even more boldly… the state should enact DEESA: Degree-by-Examination + Education Savings Accounts.
Here’s the general framework:
After 24 months, a graduate could come away with $0 debt in a high-need area. Amazing!
A DEESA graduate would know more than the average college graduate. Not hard.
With DEESA we’d see an explosion of learning as it’d pressure universities’ to increase their quality and decrease their costs.
And since a DEESA graduate could get their degree in 2 years it’d mean they’d make for an appealing job applicant as they could afford to accept lower pay and a lower position so that by the time the 4-year graduate finishes they’d be further ahead of them financially and proficiently.
In conclusion, whether it’s an incremental or bold approach to increase educational choice the only people who will be harmed by this is the establishment, particularly the Democratic Party, but the youth would undoubtedly benefit as it becomes more knowledgeable, rational, useful, innovative, and richer. But hey you gotta trans the kids so vote blue, bigot!