April 27, 2009

Taking a Chance on Charters

Neal McCluskey comments on a KIPP charter school in New York that is being forced to let its teachers unionize:

But this is the chance you take when you run a charter school: No matter how much you want to act like a private school, sooner or later the public-schooling powers will remind you of what you really are.

I still think it’s worth it to take the chance. Charters introduce choice, competition, and specialization into the public education system and make it a little bit less coercive. When families can choose a charter school, it’s no longer, “You have to go to the closest school building, or else.” And the fact that one KIPP school is being threatened by imminent unionization doesn’t mean that every charter is about to lose its character. I’m sure the unions will try, but charters may be able to stay one step ahead — at least until some other reform gives families more options.

However, this should serve as a warning to parents who want to transfer their children from private schools: Charters are not exactly the same as private schools. There are attendant drawbacks to public financing of any school.

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