Charter schools have become a hot topic in the United States, especially since President Obama called for the expansion of more innovative charter schools. However, he wasn’t the first president to remark on the development of them. In 1997, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. And, President Bush proposed a $200 million budget to support charter schools.
So, what is it about charter schools that make them so desirable?
When the first charter school law was passed in 1992, in St. Paul, Minnesota, it allowed for the creation of charter schools to be established. By 1995, 19 states had followed suit and this number drastically increased to 40 states by 2003.
Charter schools made a promise to be the vehicle that delivered high quality education to our children. These schools are said to restore, reinvent and provide better opportunities for child centered education. This is largely because some charter schools are designed and tailored by the community, rather than a central bureaucracy. Teachers, parents, or activists who feel restricted by public school policies form them. These individuals have the opportunity to create new and better services to students, as long as the charter school meets the accountability standards expressed in its charter.
Although charter schools are considered public schools, there are some key differences. Charter schools are held accountable to the achievement goals embedded in their charters. Jennifer Darien, middle school grandmother, prefers to have to her granddaughter in a Los Angeles charter school rather than a public school. “I think charter schools allow for parents to be more involved with how it operates”, stated Jennifer.
Charter schools are publicly funded and much of the faculty is made up of parents and community activists. Therefore, the charter is held responsible to the community to possess good academic results. In fact, charter schools are reviewed every five years to ensure that they adhere to the educational standards.
Until recently most of the nation’s 4,600 charter schools were able to operate without unions. This allowed them to lengthen the school days, discharge-underperforming teachers and experiment with “merit pay” based on their performance. This type of pay scale is often debarred by work rules governing traditional public schools, due to tenure. Today, however, the unionizing of some charter schools has created serious debate.
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