Betsy DeVos could be the most damaging cabinet member from the Trump administration. In times where the United States cannot afford to fall behind in education, DeVos might be digging the United States educational system into an even deeper hole; maybe even a grave. One of DeVos’ most destructive forces is her push for Charter Schools.
Charter schools are funded by taxpayer money but are run like private schools. This means that public money is being funneled out of the traditional public schools and being put into charter schools where that money could be turned into profits. Charter schools don’t even need to report how they spend the money if they hire a private business to deal with the finances. In multiple instances, charter schools in Texas paid a private company 95% of the money they received from state and federal taxes. Therefore, the business did not need to provide the public with what they do with that money. Charter schools do not need to have the same level of transparency as a public entity, such as a traditional public school. And this is all entirely legal.
The General Chappie James Leadership Academy, an Ohio charter school, the administrators falsely claimed they had 459 students enrolled in the school. State auditor Dave Yost found that only 30 kids were attending the school daily. The General Chappie James Leadership Academy school received one million dollars in additional funding from the state and federal government because they lied about their enrollment. Since regulations like this are so lax, this is happening all around the country. These are not case studies. The Akron Beacon Journal which studied how public money is spent found, “charter schools misspend public money nearly four times often than any other type of taxpayer agency.” It should be quite obvious at this point that charter schools need more regulation and that is not going to happen under secretary DeVos.
Charter schools are not the answer to any of our educational problems; instead they are a problem that will drain resources out of traditional public schools. DeVos claims that parents should have a choice of what educational institution they want their child to attend. However, charter schools don’t offer an option for everyone. Some charter schools are elitist groups that can deny any student for any reason. These elite charters can deny a student if they have a special education need; typically these students will do poor on standardized tests. This is called “cherry-picking.” Charter s will pick the best performing students, enhancing their own performance and crippling the performance of the public school. This gives the false sense that charter schools are performing well and public schools are failing.
In some cases where cherry-picking is happening, the public schools still outperformed the charter schools even though they had taken the best students! How does that happen? Teachers. Some states such as Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana have no requirements for the teachers they hire in a charter school. They can hire any person with any qualifications, while public schools can only hire certified teachers who went through proper training. When you take a group of great students and put them with unqualified teachers, the students do not perform well. When you put mediocre students with great teachers, you turn mediocracy into quality.
Not all charters will behave this way. Some charters open with the intention of taking on high needs students and attempting to hire great teachers. However, these schools still fail to reach out to the parents of children who are the highest risk. Parents who don’t take an interest in their child’s education are the ones who typically have the highest needs. Since these parents do not take an interest in their child’s education, they are unlikely to enroll them in charter schools leaving them to stay in traditional public schools. When making comparisons between charters and traditional public schools, the traditional public schools will have the highest needs students, always.
There are some charter schools that will perform better than their public school counterpart. Some charter schools are even doing better with English Language Learners (These are students whose primary language is not English) . But remember the type of parent that is likely to enroll these children: they cared about their child’s education, meaning they were most likely going to succeed regardless of the educational institution they were placed in. This gives advocates of charter schools the ammunition they need, but of course some are going to do better. It is statistically inevitable. However, the vast majority are not performing any better even with so many being as corrupt and immoral as they are.
Since DeVos main push is school choice, she also wants to have online charter schools as an option for parents. I’ll sign off with this finding from the Washington Post about online charter schools that says, “Students in online charters lost an average of 180 days of learning in math during a 180 day school year.” You do the math.