February 2011 Your Turn

President Obama loves charters. Arne Duncan loves charters. Heck, even Oprah loves charters. So that means we can all agree that charter schools are key to reforming America’s public schools?

Yes, we can! Or, at least, everyone can who’s not actually involved in running the schools. Apparently, they’re a more skeptical bunch, as the answers to our December question, “Are charter schools the answer?” show. More than half of responders (54 percent) said charters are “overhyped and not the solution they are purported to be.”

“According to the data, charter schools perform at or slightly lower than public schools with only a few exceptions,” wrote Doug Conboy, a superintendent from Alaska. “I am tired of government telling me that charters are better when they clearly are not.

“Charters are cheaper because they are allowed to sponge off public school budgets for things like extra-curricular activities and transportation, among other things,” Conboy added. “Government believes that because charter schools are relieved from many government mandates, that they are better able to provide an education. If that is true why doesn’t government relieve all schools of these same mandates?”

For the record, 20 percent of responders agreed that charters are “among the most important tools we have for reforming America’s school.” And another 20 percent said “they can play a role in school reform, but that role is limited.” Two percent marked “None of the above.”

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