Baker Mitchell: Why do charter school keep growing?

RALEIGH – North Carolina has about 1.8 million K-12 students. While approximately 80 percent of them go to public schools, the growth in school choice across the state has led to a recent flow out of public schools and into charter schools. More than 110,000 students attend one of nearly 200 charter schools in North Carolina. (That’s in addition to the almost 150,000 homeschoolers in the state.)

It’s not just in North Carolina, either. This trend is taking hold across the country, or at least where students and parents are afforded the liberty of choice in their education.

The Leftists that run the public school unions loathe this, naturally, seeing it as a drain on the taxpayer resources they feel entitled to. They fight it with political activism and rabble-rousing. RedforEd teacher pay marches, demonizing school choice advocates, and turning the state education junket, and thus the Left’s entire agenda, into its own powerful political lobby funded by taxpayers.

So, why then, isn’t the Left’s propaganda effort working? Public schools keep losing students to charter schools. Baker Mitchell in an Op-Ed for Fox News, thinks that the benfits are clear and, quite simply, parents aren’t stupid.

“[…] The reason is understandable. Charter schools, which are largely non-unionized and don’t answer to the local school superintendent, have proven they can educate America’s children as well as, or better than, local district schools, and at a lower cost. As a result, taxpayers are starting to ask questions about the school systems’ and unions’ never-ending demands for bigger budgets, higher pay, smaller classes, additional classroom aides and, lest we forget, fewer charters.

Unionized teachers, in their “Red for Ed” demonstrations and strikes during the past two years, have been unwavering in their claim that they’re taking to the streets “for the children.” We saw that in Raleigh. Yet, what activist teachers have been demanding will do little to help students. […]”

Instead, the public school advocates do so much antagonizing of alternative means of education that they expose their desire, not for better education for students, but for more power and exclusive control over education and the money associated with it. Parents, rightly concerned first and foremost about the healthy growth and education of their child, are increasingly turned off by this political ethos.

More from Mitchell:

“[…] One problem is the public-school establishment’s non-competitive attitude. This bias against choice and competition was woven deeply into the education establishment’s DNA in the 1840s by Horace Mann, who started the new “common school movement” as superintendent of education in Massachusetts. He embedded the anti-choice gene in his declaration, “We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause.” Competition from charter schools is setting these hostages free.

Another problem is the teachers’ unions. Though the education establishment doesn’t like to talk about it, research shows that children in unionized school districts, where the fight against charters is most intense, “have slightly higher dropout rates and slightly lower rates of math and reading proficiency” than students in nonunion school districts.

The source for this is not a charter advocacy organization, but “Journalist’s Resource,” a project of the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School. In North Carolina, a right-to-work state, charter students in every demographic group outscore their peers in the traditional government-run schools.

What traditional public schools are lacking is exactly what attracts many parents to charter schools: orderly classrooms, a solid no-nonsense curriculum, and teachers and administrators who recognize that helping children feel good about themselves is meaningless if you haven’t also helped them learn what they need to know. […]”

The North Carolina Constitution dictates that the State ‘forever encourage the means of education.’ It’s asinine to conclude that such a mandate excludes charter schools, and other education choices, for the children of North Carolina. Luckily choice seems to be winning the battle, and our children and our state will be better off for it if the trend can be protected and reinforced with legislation that spells out every child’s right to choice in education.

Read the rest of Baker Mitchell’s Op-Ed on why charter schools are growing so much here.

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