What are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools?

Children playing at a charter school
© Kevin Allen / NBM

A charter school is a public school in the sense that they are funded with public monies just like other public schools; however, they are not held to some of the same laws, regulations, and guidelines as regular public schools. They are deregulated from many of the requirements that traditional public schools face. In exchange, they produce certain results. Charter schools are a different option for public school students. They are not allowed to charge tuition, but they often have controlled enrollments and have waiting lists for students wanting to attend.

Charter schools are often started by administrators, teachers, parents, etc. who feel constrained by conventional public schools. Some charter schools are also established by non-profit groups, universities, or private industries. Some charter schools focus on certain areas such as science or math and others attempt to create more difficult and a more efficient educational curriculum.

What Are Some Benefits of Charter Schools?

Creators of charter schools believe that they increase learning opportunities and provide greater access to a quality education. Many people also enjoy the choice they create within the public school system for both parents and students. Proponents say they provide a system of accountability for results within public education. The required rigor of a charter school improves the overall quality of education.

One of the biggest benefits is that teachers are often encouraged to think outside the box and are encouraged to be innovative and proactive in their classrooms. This is in contrast to the belief that many public school teachers are too traditional and rigid. Charter schools advocates have stated that community and parental involvement are much higher than those in traditional public schools. With all of that said, charter schools are primarily chosen because of their higher academic standards, small class sizes, ground-breaking approaches, and matching educational philosophies.

Deregulation allows a lot of wiggle room for a charter school. Money can be directed differently than traditional public schools. Additionally, teachers have little protection, meaning that they can be released from their contract at any point without cause. Deregulation allows flexibility in others areas such as curriculum and the overall design of its core academic programs. Finally, deregulation allows the creator of the charter school to select and determine its own board. Board members are not selected through a political process as those who serve in traditional public schools are.

What Are Some Concerns with Charter Schools?

The biggest concern with charter schools is that they are often difficult to hold accountable. This is due in part to a lack of local control since the board is appointed rather than elected. There is also seemingly a lack of transparency on their part. This is actually in contrast to one of their supposed concepts. In theory charter schools can be closed for failing to meet the terms established in their charter, but in reality, this often proves difficult to enforce. However, many charter schools often face financial hardships causing schools to close across the nation.

The lottery system that many charter schools have used has also come under scrutiny. Opponents say that the lottery system is not fair for many students wishing to gain access. Even those charter schools who do not utilize a lottery system eliminates some potential students because of their rigid academic standards. For example, special needs students are not as likely to attend a charter school as a traditional public school. Because charter schools typically have a "target audience" there seems to be an overall lack of diversity among a single student body.

Teachers at charter schools often “burn out” due to the longer hours and higher levels of stress due to the higher standards they are held too. Hefty expectations come at a price. One such problem is little continuity from year to year at a charter school as there is often high staff turnover across teachers and administrators.

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Meador, Derrick. "What are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-charter-school-3194629. Meador, Derrick. (2020, August 27). What are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-charter-school-3194629 Meador, Derrick. "What are the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-charter-school-3194629 (accessed March 27, 2023).