“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin
The base of a successful society is directly correlated to a strong education system. The public school system holds parents and children hostage to lack luster education with mandated taxes and districting. Citizens became aware of the failing public education in the 1980’s and long behold the charter school movement was born. President Ronald Reagan’s A Nation at Risk: The Imperative of Education Reform report called for better education at the home front to compete against other countries. Charter schools are publicly funded, whereby, the functioning body is autonomous from the government curriculum and intervention, in turn for greater accountability. The lack of unions and significant parent involvement has led to the opening of over 5,000 charter schools. This rise in popularity has enabled 1 million students to obtain a better education. The support for charter schools means more market-based competition among educators, greater choice, and higher performance.
The capitalist ethic embedded in the free-market economy allows for competition to attract the best students. The concept behind school competition drives from conservative principles in the “devolving” of the state authority to empower the supply end of education over the quality. The basic problem with the standard public school approach is that, room for growth and improvement are not visible when externalities of competition are not present. Milton Friedman’s, free-market spirit of the economy allows for strong competition among the performance of all schools, thus, the price to performance ratio of inputs and outputs will be efficient among schools. The lack of teacher unions and a strong communal based charter lead to innovation and citizenship education, whereby, civic skills and volunteer opportunities are encouraged. The connection of market driven schools and outcome is a beneficial result that encourages choice for parents and students to endeavor in new measures of education.
The United States has three streams of education at the public, charter, and private level. The charter schools provide alternative options for students and parents that want better education than the standard public school, however, not charged with the costs of private schools. The greatness in choice comes with the empowerment of the consumers in the ability to select a suitable school for ones’ own needs. Competition ultimately drives consumer choices, based on the results posted by charter schools. The distribution of charter schools in the United States has been somewhat unbalanced. Major charter schools in states such as Texas, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia cater to specialized communities of minorities. Enrollment systems in American charter schools are lottery based and are riddled with long wait lists. Currently, there are over 4,700 charter schools and wait list of over 365,000 names. Choice in educational style provides parents and students the ability to properly decide on which system fits best, however, the policy of “buyer beware” is still in effect when shopping for charter schools.
Innovation, accountability, and opportunity are aspects of what well run charter schools provide for students, parents, and teachers. Since Minnesota passed the first laws about charter schools in 1991, education has been become more accessible in rural areas, small towns, and for low-income students. The abundance of supply found in charter schools has provided a plethora of information about various results from different states. Some states post superior results, whereas, other states show charter schools lagging behind the public system. The charter school system takes in 4% of the student population and that 17% perform significantly better than the public system in areas of math, science, and reading, however, 37% of the schools fall behind and still maintain the charter because of a strong presence in a Hispanic or black community The states that post the best charter school results are Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, and Missouri. Areas with large groups of minorities like New Mexico, Texas, Florida, and Washington D.C present mixed results as certain districts perform well and others do not.
It is clear that public education is on the decline under the Obama administration, however, the burden has been picked up by many state legislatures to support the charter school movement. The American Dream will still be accessible to the upcoming generations due to the availability of strong schooling. Through the comprehension of schools as markets, success is bound to the students and teachers and not to the federal government. Education provides liberty and a strong foundation for individuals in terms civic participation and workforce contribution.
Follow Berent Batur on Twitter @BerentBatur.