Should Charter Schools Be Allowed to Push Out Difficult Kids?

Q&A with Robert Pondiscio on Success Academy and the 'Got-to-Go' controversy.


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Do charter schools—publicly funded schools that are freed from many state-and-local regulations—routinely push out difficult kids? Does this undermine their overall mission and purpose? Or is it a legitimate way to ensure a better education for more students?

In October, The New York Times broke the story that a principal at Success Academy, which is New York City's largest and most successful charter network, targeted a group of students to be pushed out of his school, maintaining a so-called Got-to-Go list. Success Academy's founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz, responded that the episode was a one-time mistake. As soon as the Got-to-Go list came to her attention, Moskowitz says, she put a stop to the practice and disciplined the principal.

Last week, a group of parents filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, accusing the school of edging out students with disabilities and denying them accommodations. Moskowitz disputed the charges, stating that Success only suspends students when they engage in violent behavior.

But let's say the allegations are broadly true—that the Success network does suspend kids with the intention of getting the most difficult or hard-to-serve to go back to the traditional public school system. What's wrong with this practice?

"I have no problem at all with charters functioning as a poor man's private school," says Robert Pondiscio, who's a vice president at the education think tank the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who adds that private schools boot kids all the time. "Are we saying that if you're a poor black or brown kid, it's a problem that you should have a disruption-free, studious, high-quality school? Why is that unfair?"

For more on Pondiscio's take on the Got-to-Go controversy, read his November 6 story in U.S. News & World Report, "Uncomfortable Questions."

For the past several years, Reason has been a media sponsor of National School Choice Week, which seeks to raise public awareness about the need to give kids and parents more options when it comes to K-12 education. National School Choice Week 2016, which is held from January 24-30, features over 16,000 events in all 50 states. Click here to read more.

Produced, shot, and edited by Jim Epstein. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Additional camera by Joshua Swain.

About 9:30 long.

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