Inside the World of Charter School Reform

For years, charter school systems around the country have heard calls for reform. From changing their teaching certificate standards to their demands for state money in a private setting, charter schools have been associated with public outcry for some time.

Now, states are ramping up their efforts to boost reform within the charter systems including Arizona and California, where the outlook is bleak on things actually getting done. And besides calls to cut public funding for charter schools and holding teachers to higher standards, it’s the test scores that parents are worried about, bringing to question what value charter schools have in communities.

Trouble Out West

Arizona’s charter school system has been under the microscope for years and has recently picked up bipartisan support to be reformed. Democrats in the state’s legislature have unsuccessfully tried to push reform efforts through, but now republican state senators, like Kate Brophy McGee, are aiding in the calls for change. Gov. Doug Ducey is now backing efforts as local news reports highlighted things like no-bid contracts, insider deals and teacher pay cuts within charters last year.

Private charter-management companies are not subject to the state’s public-records laws, which are meant to keep transparency active to disclose school spending of public money that is provided. And with more than 500 charter schools in Arizona, it’s easy to see the frustration from lawmakers and the public.

Charter schools are also not required to dedicate a minimum amount of state tax dollars to the classroom in some states. There’s also no limit on executive compensation or the share of funds that can be transferred to management companies. These are areas in which states like Arizona are wanting to see changed for good including calls for independent boards of directors, not insiders, to oversee charters.

Testing Out

Charter schools have notoriously been on the hook for struggling to raise students’ standardized testing scores. These schools have been exempted from state procurement or conflict-of-interest laws and oversight of elected boards in some parts of the country. With less regulation, charter supports have argued, the schools could possibly succeed where traditional public schools have failed.

But there hasn’t been definitive evidence of how this has helped the students. In fact, standardized testing numbers haven’t been known to grow within the charter school system.

Advocates for charters say students without the opportunity to get to college or gain a good education have an opportunity to do so by attending a charter school. These charters are meant to be more intensive and help with a more hands-on education. However, people come out against the schools say money and efforts are going into the board members’ pockets instead of in the classroom where resources should be given to teachers in pay and supplies.

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