‘Charter schools are public’ claim doesn’t hold up

Seven Oaks Classical School headmaster Stephen Shipp makes several debatable claims in his Herald-Times guest column arguing that charter schools are public schools.

He suggests charter schools are public because they “are judged by the state’s A-F accountability system.” But in Indiana, so are private schools that receive vouchers. He says charter schools are “accountable to an authorizer who can shut them down.” Yes, but that almost never happens. Seven Oaks’ authorizer, Grace College, does not answer to the public.

Shipp claims charter schools are at a disadvantage because they can’t levy property taxes to pay for buildings and transportation. But they don’t have to provide transportation (Seven Oaks doesn’t). And, unlike public schools, charter schools in Indiana receive state funding — soon to be $1,000 per student — for those costs. They also qualify for grants, like the $900,000 recently awarded Seven Oaks.

Shipp also says charter-school families “don’t see the benefit of the taxes they pay in support of public education.” (Doesn’t that concede that charter schools are not “public education”?). But we don’t pay taxes only to benefit ourselves. We fund public schools because democratically controlled schools, responsive and accountable to the public, are important for the community and the nation, even if we don’t have children enrolled in them.

Charter schools are what they are, for better or for worse. Simply calling them “public schools” doesn’t make it so.

This post was first published as a letter to the Bloomington Herald-Times. For a persuasive argument that charter schools are not public schools, see Peter Green’s column for Forbes.

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1 thought on “‘Charter schools are public’ claim doesn’t hold up

  1. Charter schools are not governed by elected boards. Teachers who work at charter schools are not paid in accordance with the salary schedule of the school district within which the charter school resides. The schools do not pay into the state teacher’s retirement system. Some charter schools make teachers sign contracts forbidding union organization – this despite labor rights. There can be more non-certified teachers in a charter school than in a “public school.” The only public thing about charter schools is the funding from taxes. The accountability of charter schools is nearly non-existent. Charter schools have diluted the contribution to true public education.

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