“Unlike most voucher programs, many charter-school systems are subject to rigorous evaluation and oversight. Local officials decide which charters can open and expand. Officials don’t get every decision right, but they are able to evaluate schools based on student progress and surveys of teachers and families.As a result, many charters have flourished, especially in places where traditional schools have struggled. This evidence comes from top academic researchers, studying a variety of places, including Washington, Boston, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Florida and Texas. The anecdotes about failed charters are real, but they’re not the norm.
Douglas Harris, a Tulane professor, says the difference between charters and vouchers boils down to “managed competition” versus the “free market.” Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan talks about charters’ successfully combining flexibility and accountability. Joshua Angrist of M.I.T. says, “Flexibility alone is not enough.”Crucially, many charters are open to all comers, which means their success doesn’t stem from skimming off the best. And the schools’ benefits extend beyond test scores to more meaningful metrics, like college graduation.”
Bravo David Leonhardt. Your excellent analysis reminds me that John V. Lindsay was a supporter of charter schools when the idea was much newer.
Here is an interesting comment that is more skeptical than mine, and bears attention:
WFGersen Etna, NH 1 hour ago
I am a progressive with 29 years as a public school superintendent in 5 different states in the Northeast and here’s what I know to be true: traditional public schools, governed by elected school boards in communities that can afford to provide generous funding for small class sizes, a wide array of programs, and teacher training do far better than any schools in America. Unfortunately for our country, these well financed districts are invariably located in our country’s most affluent communities whose housing costs of housing preclude the enrollment of parents who earn poverty-level wages. If we are serious about making public education a “powerful force for accelerating economic growth, reducing poverty and lifting middle-class living standards” we should fund ALL districts at the same level as our most affluent ones. In 2015, Scarsdale spent $31,005/pupil. The State mean was $23,370. New Rochelle, within commuting distance of Scarsdale, spent $22,584. Scarsdale taxpayers, who chose to spend roughly $7,500 more than the State mean and roughly $8,500 than their neighbors to the south believe spending on public education matters… and I know New Rochelle could do a lot with the $28 million in additional funds they would have if their per pupil spending matched Scarsdale.
Choice advocates like Mr. Leonardt sidestep questions of inequitable funding and the housing patterns that underly these disparities in spending. As a progressive, I believe we need to face these issues.