Myths and Facts
MYTH: Non-profit public charter schools will divert funds from traditional public schools and drain the public school system.
FACT: In Washington state, school funding follows the student. When a student decides to attend to a public charter school, per-student funding from the state moves with them--this ensures that every public school has a base level of funding that matches their enrollment. In 2012, Washington provided public schools with $9,753 per student, according to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. There are 2,300+ traditional public schools in Washington.
MYTH: Unsupervised private companies are making profits running public charter schools.
FACT: Public charter schools in Washington would be run by non-profit organizations, colleges and universities. Independent public charter schools are highly accountable for student performance and fiscal management, answering to parents, the state, and the charter authorizer. The authorizer is a public body — a school board, public university or state commission — that grants charter schools a performance-based contract. Charter schools that fail to perform academically can be closed more quickly than low-performing traditional public schools.
MYTH: Teachers and teachers' unions are adamantly opposed to public charter schools.
FACT: Both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) support well-desiged public charter schools and both recognize that charter should be evaluated in each state individually according to what the specific schools are offering to students, teachers and parents. Many teachers recognize that public charter schools often have the freedom to offer a longer school day, reward their best teachers with better pay, and innovate in response to student needs.
MYTH: Students at public charter schools do no better or end up doing worse than students at traditional public schools.
FACT: In the 41 states where charters operate, some have been stunning successes, others have not. Just as there are good and bad traditional public schools, so there can be good and bad public charter schools. However, Washington has the opportunity to learn from the proven experience of public charters that have been outperforming district schools. In New York’s 118 charter schools, 86 percent of kids outscored their district schools in math and 66 percent in English. In Washington, D.C., middle school charter students scored 19 points higher in reading and 20 points higher in math than their peers in traditional public schools. We can take the best of what works in other states and use it here for our kids.
MYTH: Our traditional public schools have improved so much that it is a waste of resources to invest in public charter schools.
FACT: Despite impressive improvements, nearly 1 in 4 Washington students do not graduate from high school on time, and the numbers are worse for low-income students and students of color. Last year, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 164,000 children failed to meet Washington state reading standards — more than enough to fill up both Seahawks and Husky stadiums.
MYTH: Public charter schools get more money than traditional public schools and that is the only reason some of them perform better.
FACT: Most public charters schools get less money than traditional schools. Public charter schools receive state and federal per-pupil funding, but often do not receive local school district levy dollars. For this reason, many charters actually get $400 to $1,200 less per student per year than district public schools, according to a 2010 Ball State University study.
MYTH: Public charter schools are segregating low-income children and children of color.
FACT: The racial composition of non-profit public charter schools mirrors that of the traditional schools the children previously attended, according to research by the Rand Corporation in 2009. Many charters have a mission to serve low-income and children of color, as the ones in Washington would. Parents, no matter their race, would be choosing the school for their children, and not having that school’s demographics imposed upon them.
MYTH: Charter schools accept only the "cream of the crop" and reject underperforming students.
FACT: Public charter schools are tuition-free independent public schools that are open to all. When there are more applicants than seats, charter schools are required by law to hold a public lottery.
MYTH: Charter schools don't really address the achievement/opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color.
FACT: Low-income children who have attended public charter schools have consistently scored better in math and reading than poor kids in traditional public schools. The well-respected Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcome 2009 study found that both English language learners and low-income kids “have clearly been well served by the introduction of charters into the education landscape.”