WASHINGTON— A new report just released by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University calls for increased accountability, transparency and equity in the taxpayer-funded charter school sector. The Institute is proposing standards to be implemented into state and charter authorizer policies that would better serve all students and protect the public’s investment in public education. Approximately 2.57 million students are enrolled in over 6,000 charter schools nationwide.
NEA President Eskelsen García: ‘Standards and vigorous oversight are key to protecting charter school students and the public’s investment in public education”
“Charters began as a way to free teams of educators to devise innovative ways to engage students and learn from effective practices to improve all of public education,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García. “Unfortunately, the lack of vigorous oversight and a superficial regulatory structure in the charter sector has enabled too many of these schools to fall short of delivering on what they promise students and families. Charter sector standards are key to making sure that more of our charter schools serve their students well and do not make the job of our traditional public education sector even more challenging.”
As charter schools have expanded rapidly across the country, this frequently lax oversight has harmed taxpayers and communities as well. A May 2014 report by the Center for Popular Democracy documented over $100 million in waste, fraud and abuse in 17 areas alone. Closing loopholes, stronger regulation and vigorous oversight is essential to prevent further bilking of taxpayers and undermining the strength of public school systems in our communities, while allowing the best qualities of chartering to flourish.
“Children deserve choices, but not just for the sake of offering choices,” said National Education President Lily Eskelsen García. “If charters are to continue receiving public funds, they should be accountable to the public – the very communities they exist in. But more and more we see the voices of educators, parents and community members bypassed in favor of doing what’s best for corporate profits—and students end up truly paying the cost.”
The Annenberg report found some common concerns: uneven academic performance; practices that pushed or kept students out of charter schools; overly harsh discipline policies; funding patterns that destabilized traditional schools; and a lack of representative governance, transparency, and adequate oversight.
Eskelsen García said it’s time for the charter industry to be just as transparent in enrollment, discipline and oversight as traditional public schools. “The public deserves to know that all taxpayer-funded schools, charter as well as traditional and magnet, are working to provide the best education they can for students. Good standards are about protecting their investment and protecting our students. It’s time to shine a light on charters and make sure they are serving students and communities first.”
NEA believes that the Annenberg standards and report are a major contribution to identifying and offering constructive suggestions on key concerns in the charter sector. “We urge policymakers, parents, educators in all sectors and communities to read it, discuss it and draw from it to develop measures that work for students,” said Eskelsen García.
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.