Charter Schools

How COVID-19 Is Spreading School Choice

The growing movement to fund students rather than government monopolies


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The COVID-19 lockdowns have upended no part of our lives more than K-12 education, with virtually no public schools open for business with full-time, in-person instruction.

The result has been pandemonium for students, parents, and educators, who are scrambling to make sense of school systems that are no longer capable of fulfilling their missions.

The one constant? Critiques of school choice—especially by wealthy, well-connected liberals and progressives, such as Samantha Bee, who claimed on a recent episode of her TBS show Full Frontal, that charters have little oversight. As a matter of fact, charter schools are overseen by state and local education officials.

Bee is joined in her contempt for charters by Joe Biden, who came out swinging in an interview with the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, saying, "Now a lot of these charter schools are significantly underperforming…"

Corey DeAngelis, the director of school choice at the Reason Foundation and the co-editor of the new collection School Choice Myths: Setting the Record Straight on Education Reform, points to a meta-analysis by the University of California, San Diego, economists Julian R. Betts and Y. Emily Tang, which "conclude[s] that there's about a 2 to 3 percent standard deviation increase in academic outcomes" at charter schools.

DeAngelis, who holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of Arkansas, says widespread dissatisfaction with online education is massively increasing interest in school choice.

"The school system has gotten so bad that families are figuring out that there's no good reason to fund institutions when you can fund students directly." He told Reason last week. "People are reinvisioning the factory model of schooling."

DeAngelis points to a poll showing that 17 percent of parents who have disenrolled their children from traditional public schools this fall wouldn't go back even if the schools reopened for in-person instruction. Charter school operators in states such as South Carolina are expecting a 40 percent increase in the size of their student bodies in the coming year.

"If the charter schools aren't accountable to families, why are 3.2 million families choosing charter schools each and every year?" DeAngelis said in response to Samantha Bee. "Families can take can take their children elsewhere if the charter schools aren't doing a good job."

DeAngelis also cites a recent study of low-income minority students in Boston who attended charters.

"They found pretty large increases in 10th-grade academic proficiencies on their state exam, [and] higher enrollments in college as well….The findings were overall positive for students with special needs that won a lottery to attend a charter."

DeAngelis says there's no turning back when it comes to school choice.

"If your grocery store doesn't reopen, you can take your money elsewhere. If your child's school doesn't reopen, you should similarly be able to take [your] children's education dollars elsewhere. And when you look at all of these other taxpayer-funded initiatives, that the funding follows the person, it doesn't go to the institution regardless of how well it meets your needs. And so I think more people are seeing this issue with how we finance K-12 education."

Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by John Osterhoudt. Additional Graphics by Austin Bragg.

Music: "Scenery," by Kai Engel, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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  1. Bee is joined in her contempt for charters by Joe Biden, who came out swinging in an interview with the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, saying, “Now a lot of these charter schools are significantly underperforming…”

    He seems to have a talent for endorsing really unpopular ideas. At a time when people are pulling their kids out of traditional public school en masse, this is a bad position to take. Strategically speaking. MILLIONS of parents are sick of public school and totally disappointed in remote classrooms. They are leaving schools right now, mid-year. Biden is tone deaf.

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    3. Quid pro quo – Biden gets a strong endorsement from the NEA and other similar education unions and he blathers their talking points for them about how turrrrrible everything is other than in public schools, a claim which is laughable on its face if one isn’t doing a political dance.

      The Dems have lost their virtual lock on union endorsements, but ultimately they’ve traded it off to try and wrangle in the fascists of the left. The NEA knows that teachers can simply move from one form of teaching to another, but such a transition means they lose their union members [aka union paycheck].

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  3. Why is that girl wearing a mask sitting alone at a laptop?

    Putting face diapers on your kids and teaching them to fear everyone is child abuse.

    1. I was just going to post about this.

      Fricken child abuse. Horrible picture.

      Especially considering the CDC published a study where people with known Covid always were a mask 70.6% of the time.

      MASKS DON’T WORK. And that we shove those disgusting things on kids is one of the few things that infuriates me enough to cause bodily harm to someone who peddles this superstitious stupidity.

    2. We must not picture anyone without a mask lest someone think they are maskless in a group setting.

      Painters have been dispatched to art museums to paint masks over any and all paintings depicting people.

      Masks will be put on all statues of people.

      1. The new Puritans.

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    1. It is disturbing.

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  7. There has to be some compromise that would get school choice enacted. Maybe dismantling No Child Left Behind and all the tests teachers seem to dislike? Doing away with common core? I’d be okay with allowing teachers more leeway in education if I could also take my kids’ funding and go elsewhere if what they came up with didn’t meet their needs.

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