School Choice

The Charter School King

The school choice significance of Obama's new education secretary.

|

This week's bipartisan approval of Obama's latest U.S. Education Secretary in the Senate by 49-40 says less about John King, Jr. and more about the mainstreaming of school choice and charter schools in America.

John King is the first school principal and charter school founder to ever reach the top education position. He deserves his charter school accolades.  He founded Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston and then served as the managing director at Uncommon Schools charter school network, which now has 44 schools serving more than 14,000 disadvantaged students. In 2013 Uncommon Schools won the Broad Prize for urban charter schools for serving 98 percent African American and Hispanic students and closing the income and ethnic achievement gaps at four times the rate of other large charter school organizations across the country. In addition, Uncommon Schools' graduates earn bachelor's degrees at five times the rate of low-income students nationally.

Yet, it was not King's charter school history but instead John King's positions on more traditional education policies that proved to be his biggest obstacle to the nomination. His work as the New York State education commissioner to support and implement Common Core, his introduction of teacher evaluations partially based on student achievement, and his exams for prospective New York teachers made him unpopular with the unions, the education establishment, and some education reform groups. 

In fact, during King's Senate confirmation hearing he received questions about how he would implement the new federal ESSA law, how he would manage student loan "crisis," and even about the Obama administration's opposition to school vouchers. But in response to his charter school background, the Senate committee didn't even blink. In fact the Senate education committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in her opening remarks that King is a strong nominee: "Through his personal background, he knows firsthand the power that education can have in a student's life." Indeed, John King is personally responsible for hundreds of low-income students receiving the opportunity for more education choice, a higher-quality education experience, and to ultimately graduate and go on to college.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, more than 400 new charter public schools opened in the 2015-16 school year, and more than 250,000 additional students are attending charter schools this year. Overall, nearly 3 million students are now attending more than 6,800 charter schools nationwide. This doesn't even tell the full story. Individual cities and communities are greatly benefiting from charter schools becoming the majority provider of education services.

New Orleans is the case in point, with 100 percent of students enrolled in charter schools. And the news out of the Big Easy for kids has never been better. A 2015 study by Tulane University found that the charter reforms seem to have moved the average student's achievement up by 0.2 to 0.4 standard deviations. That's enough to improve a typical New Orleans student's achievement by 8 to 15 percentile points. The reforms have also increased rates of high school graduation and college entry. The Tulane researchers make the strong claim that "we are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time." In addition, the New Orleans achievement gains were greater than gains found from other popular education reforms like preschool attendance and class-size reduction and were accomplished for around 25 percent of the cost of those other reforms. 

John King's ultimate impact on federal education policy given the brief time of his term may be minimal, but his nomination is perhaps most important for its signaling about the future of school choice and charter schools. Neerav Kingsland, who is the former leader of New Schools for New Orleans, current education program director at the Arnold Foundation, and is heading up Netflix founder's Reed Hastings $100 million philanthropic education fund, writes at his popular education blog Relinquishment that there are now "more students enrolled in charter schools than there are teacher union members." He explains that teacher union members are in decline with less than 50 percent of teachers in unions. Kingsland predicts that in 5 years more than 5 million students will be enrolled in charters and that "charter school parents will outnumber teacher union membership by 2-3x" Kingsland concludes his musings by asking these questions: "Who will be the education base of the Democratic Party in 2024? And what if it is the children of other union members (construction, hospitality, etc) that are enrolling in charter schools? What alliances will form?"

John King's nomination provides one answer. Apparently, charter schools are moving into a new normal where working as a charter school founder and advocate is no longer enough to disrupt the nomination of a top federal education policymaker. As a symbol of how we want to do education in the future, John King's charter school legacy speaks louder for the future of school choice and charter school expansion than any specific education policies or words.

Advertisement

NEXT: Flint Water Crisis Hearings: Watch Rick Snyder Accept Blame, EPA Furiously Avoid It

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “New Orleans is the case in point, with 100 percent of students enrolled in charter schools. And the news out of the Big Easy for kids has never been better. A 2015 study by Tulane University found that the charter reforms seem to have moved the average student’s achievement up by 0.2 to 0.4 standard deviations.”

    Holy Cow. Well I expect that study to be viciously attacked in the near future.

    Also, I’m actually shocked that President Obama nominated this man. Kudos, Mr. President!

    1. I’m a little confused as to why Obama nominated him, too. Nowhere in the article does it say if he’s a Muslim, trans-gendered, a vegan, or a Trump supporter so I have no idea how I’m supposed to feel about this.

      1. “Nowhere in the article does it say if he’s a Muslim, trans-gendered, a vegan, or a Trump supporter…”

        One of these things is not like the other!

      2. Hello
        I think that there have to be the standard that existing of the business education department is necessary for each school ! for children who are small – but the writing department is more necessary for children and this process will go better with the help of the company http://www.uk.papersowl.com (it is the company that helps students with writing dissertations) . So I advice doing a more professional program for children with business educational processes and writing educational processes!

    2. best president ever! yen

  2. What’s the catch? Besides the standard disclaimer that the feds have no business having a department of education?

  3. Unpossible. I was assured the Senate was comprised of KKKochsucking Obstructionist TEAThuglicans that never gave Chocolate Nixon anything he wanted and always vote no just to spite him.

  4. RE: Charter Schools

    We all know charter schools are not for the masses.
    Otherwise the little people would find out what a lie socialism is and destroy the slave state our ruling elites have conveniently for us.
    Any socialist will tell you it is not wise to receive wisdom.

    1. Unk,

      Fortunately for the masses, school boards filled with the socialist dream of “one school for all” rule everywhere. Here in Polk Co, FL, more conservo than most ‘Lanta coast States, the school board rejects more Charter applications than it accepts by far.

      So the parents of the masses won’t have to face the challenge of another life choice. All hail the peeps!

  5. Dude I never even thought about it liek that before.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

  6. “my .friend’s mate Is getting $98. HOURLY. on the internet.”….

    two days ago new Mc.Laren. F1 bought after earning 18,624$,,,this was my previous month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, 18kbucks Last month ..3-5h/r of work ?a days ..with extra open doors & weekly. paychecks.. it’s really the easiest work I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months ago and now making over 87$, p/h.
    Learn. More right Here
    Mc!03
    ??
    ??? http://www.Today70.com

  7. nice this information
    please visit to my blog
    Surat Al Waqiah
    tulisan Asmaul Husna

  8. Start making more money weekly. This is a valuable part time work for everyone. The best part work from comfort of your house and get paid from $100-$2k each week.Start today and have your first cash at the end of this week. For more details Check this link??
    ========= http://www.ReportMax90.com

  9. before I saw the bank draft which had said $9426 , I didnt believe that…my… brother woz like actualy earning money part-time at there labtop. . there uncles cousin has done this 4 less than fifteen months and by now repaid the dept on there place and got a great new Mini Cooper . read the full info here …

    Clik This Link inYour Browser??

    ? ? ? ? http://www.SelfCash10.com

  10. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ??????? http://www.selfcash10.com

  11. I’m big support ofr Obama and its policy regarding education. He is fully trying to make the education system best in all over the work which make a example for other countries to follow it. Appointment of New Education secretary is a link for that effort which have a task to make sure the quality educaiton in all schools of America without any descrimination. Actually my friend suggest me a site of essay mama writers. He said me to visit that site for getting good and very helpful content regarding eduation. At the same time like to touch the latest news at that site.

  12. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ??????? http://www.selfcash10.com

  13. Good post. It is really help to us. Its give us lots of interest and pleasure. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. Its really a good article. It gives me lots of pleasure and interest..!!
    Islamic Black Magic Specialist
    Solution Your Love Problems

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.