Texas lawmakers added more than $6.5 billion new dollars to public education, allocating more total state funding to education than ever before. There’s a lot of interest in where all the money is going.
The biggest recipients of education funding are public school districts, which receive financing from both state coffers and locally-collected taxes. But charter schools, public schools that are funded entirely by the state, will benefit, as well.
Charter schools are given more autonomy in exchange for academic and innovative results. Because charter schools are another school option for many students, they help provide a crucial impact on education in Texas—competition. Competition drives growth, innovation, and it improves results. Fostering healthy competition between charter and traditional public schools, with the added effect of private options, empowers parents, students, and even teachers.
According to a report by the National Association of Realtors, the quality of neighborhood schools is one of the most important factors for people between the ages of 37 and 51 as they consider buying a home. That statistic is evidence for what we all know—parents want the best education for their kids.
It’s here that education competition becomes incredibly valuable. School districts compete with private schools for students, but because private schools charge tuition, they inevitably target a different population of students. But charter schools are free public schools that compete for the same students.
What’s more, charter schools have the autonomy to better adapt to the unique needs of students and encourage more innovation in education. They can allow personalized teaching methods and programs for their teachers.
According to the TEA, charter school teachers actually make less money on average than school district teachers, which indicates something else may be attracting them to teaching opportunities in charter schools. When we discuss the benefit of education options for parents and students, we often neglect to consider the value of choice for teachers. That is a missed opportunity because when teachers excel in their jobs, students excel in their studies.
Another way charter schools encourage healthy competition is with schools that have specific focuses. Consider IDEA Public Schools and the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts as examples. IDEA focuses on preparing 100% of their high school graduates to be college-ready while FWAFA focuses on “comprehensive programs in dance, music, theater and visual arts.” Both of these charters received excellent ratings from the state during the most recent evaluation. Personalization and uniqueness are strengths enjoyed by charter schools that are beneficial to students.
One widespread criticism of charter schools says that they’re privatized schools that pull resources away from traditional district schools; pitting school districts and charters against each other takes the focus off students and shifts it to a school’s bottom line.
They’re not. Unlike district schools, they do not receive any locally-collected tax dollars. As a general rule, they are open-enrollment, which means that any student who lives within the charter school’s established borders can attend that school, as long as there are seats available. Charter schools are also required to meet the same academic requirements—and even more strict accountability requirements—as district schools.
While charters compete with district schools, we shouldn’t read that to mean they oppose each other. They should instead cooperate. Texas must educate more than 5.5 million students, each with unique educational needs.
We must provide a quality education to every child. Texas’ public education system—with both traditional public schools and charters—is doing an increasingly better job of doing just that.