Even as taxpayers pour billions more dollars into public schools, performance continues to falter. Test scores remain flat, at best, while conditions worsen.
One way to improve public education is from within the system. Charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently of local systems, often succeed where conventional public schools fail.
Charter schools thrive in large part because they are free from much of the tangle of rules and regulations that burden public schools, giving teachers some latitude to innovate. In some states, charter schools are fully exempt except for health, safety, special education and civil rights regulation.
This freedom typically provides parents with greater opportunities to be involved in their children's educations. At the same time, students usually get more individual attention and a chance to focus on the subjects they excel in and enjoy the most.
Apparently freedom works. Test scores at charter schools are "rising sharply," according to Danielle Georgiou of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Students at these schools, she adds, "are more likely to be proficient in reading and math than students in neighboring conventional schools, achieving the greatest gains among African-American, Hispanic and low-income students."
Charter schools are usually located in urban areas and are often launched by the efforts of churches, community centers and nonprofit organizations that receive a charter from an authorizing body. That means, yes, they are accountable. And they tend to serve large numbers of students from lower-income and needy families.
But startup costs often present a lofty hurdle for groups that dream of charter schools in their communities. Developers can bridge this gap by building new facilities or renovating old ones and turning them over to schools.
The practice makes perfect sense and is increasingly becoming a tool for commercial — and sometimes nonprofit — builders to lure young families into urban and suburban housing developments. It's the free market at work solving one of the country's most intractable problems.
Given how well charter schools perform, it's no surprise they can be a strong attraction for parents who are making decisions about moving. Chicago-area builder Cambridge Homes, for instance, says it added a charter school to a northeast Illinois housing development because it's part of a "quality of life package" that people are looking for.
From Florida, where Fernando Zulueta put a charter school in a housing development in 1997, to Aurora, Colo., where nearly a dozen developers are essentially creating a new school system from a network of charter schools, developers are meeting the needs of parents and students who want a better education than conventional public schools can deliver.
October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 May 2013 July 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 May 2015 September 2015 November 2015 December 2015 March 2016