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Charter school experiment has “failed,” concludes national investigation

The charter school industry’s unregulated, taxpayer-funded business model of education is a “fiscal and educational disaster,” concluded a report that is the result of investigations, visits and interviews over the course of a year.

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The Network for Public Education, in its 48-page report, detailed the consequences of loosely regulated charter policy and the effects that charters are having on public schools. Whatever the benefits charter schools offers to the few, the overall negative consequences must be addressed, stated the report, titled Charters and Consequences.


The report continued:

Charter schools can and have closed at will, leaving families stranded. Profiteers with no educational expertise have seized the opportunity to open charter schools and use those schools for self-enrichment. States with weak charter laws encourage nepotism, profiteering by politicians, and worse.

For all of the reasons above and more, the Network for Public Education regards charter schools as a failed experiment that our organization cannot support.

Despite its assessment of the charter school experiment, NPE does not recommend the immediate closure of charter schools. “We recognize that many families have
come to depend on charter schools and that many charter school teachers are dedicated professionals who serve their students well. It is also true that some charter schools are successful.” Rather, the organization calls for the absorption of charters into the public school system. “We look forward to the day when charter schools are governed not by private boards, but by those elected by the community, at the district, city or county level.”

Charters and Consequences used 11 issues-based stories based not only on research but also interviews with parents, community members, teachers and school leaders familiar with the effects of charters on their communities and neighborhood public schools. The report found that charter mismanagement, fraud and the use of unproven educational practices is not a partisan issue. It discovered problems in the “blue state of California,” where 20% of charters are either online schools or storefront schools where students pick up school work.

The report also examined the 2015 decision by the Philadelphia superintendent to turn over control of John Wister Elementary School to the Mastery Charter School chain. In prior years, parents in struggling schools were able to vote on whether their neighborhood school would be turned over to a charter company. Instead, residents recounted being lied to by the company about the money it would invest in Wister. Parents criticized Mastery’s marketing campaign that pitted parents
against each other, leading to picketing and heated meetings.

After evidence was uncovered that the district had used the wrong enrollment numbers and that the school had made academic progress, the superintendent rescinded his decision. That decision was overturned, however, when the School Reform Commission, a five-member board appointed by the governor and mayor, voted at a meeting to return control to Mastery. “Few Wister parents were present, believing that the issue had been resolved. The room was filled, however, with pro-Mastery parents who cheered. . .  Despite cries of conflict of interest, the lack of notice to the
public, and even objections by the mayor of Philadelphia, the SRC gave its final approval to turn Wister over to Mastery Charter Schools.”

Charters and Consequences offers a section that asks “are charter schools public schools?” In response, the report stated, in part, “Charters, regardless of their original intent, have become a threat to democratically governed, neighborhood public schools, and questions about their practices, opacity, and lack of accountability are increasing, as their numbers grow.”

NPE’s report concluded by recommending that legislation governing charter schools include:

  • An immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools.
  • All due process rights for charter students that are afforded public school students, in all matters of discipline.
  • Required certification of all school teaching and administrative staff.
  • Complete transparency in all expenditures and income.
  • Annual audits available to the public.
  • Requirements that all properties owned by the charter school become the property of the local public school if the charter closes.
  • The transformation of for-profit charters to non-profit charters and of for-profit management organizations to non-profit management organizations.

14 responses to “Charter school experiment has “failed,” concludes national investigation

  1. Everyone misses the key point on how charter schools hurt a district. Public school have to outplace severely disabled students who require specialized services. In my urban district the city has to outplace over 100 students at a cost of $100,000 per student plus transportation the cost is over 10 million.

    The local charter school does not out place any student outplacement cost 0. They had 2 students at the charter school, one did well the other other had severe disabilities. The one who was disabled was sent to the our public school and had to out placed. We had to pay the expense of over $100,000. This happens all the time across the nation. Charter schools do not have treat the most severely disabled students, they can choose who they teach, if a disabled student does not do well they can call the problem “academic” and not except them.

    My school specializes in severe disabilities however when a student is a danger to themselves or others and needs specialized help and an outplacement is what is needed to help them, the district does what is best for the student.

  2. A few bad examples threaten to undo the powerful good that the majority of charter schools offer to their communities. Charter schools do not earn profits. They are held accountable by the same and also higher standards that traditional public schools are held to. They have to get their charter renewed every 5 years. The renewal process is based on scores and community feedback. Parents have a huge say in charter renewal. This article is using scare tactics and twisting the facts. Charter schools are our democracy’s way of infusing many models into the school environment to help all schools build on what works. They offer free choice to the public. It’s actually illegal to turn anyone away from a charter school, including students with disabilities. Don’t let some illegally acting schools stop the schools that give our families and students a free choice in where to go.

    1. @Stephanie Brady I suggest you research charter schools from a personal level. “I have” and the picture is not pretty for most. In too many, just as stated in this article, the “non excuses” model of controlling the students is extremely punitive and demoralizing to the students. I have toured such schools and the children at like zombies. This should not be allowed. Also, in my city currently, the 5 year review is far too long. One charter school has been on probation for two years and appear to get renewed, and allowed to be on probation for two more years, not closed as you think. This is harmful to the students and I am personally fighting that issue as of this writing. Most of the charters in my city do not provide professional services needed for those students “special needs”. What happens to these students? Sometimes parents figure it out and the students are returned to public schools. In other cases, these remain in the charter schools. Many of the charters provide very little in the way of curriculum. Who monitors that? No one.

      1. Well Marva, I disagree with you! We have our student in a very good charter school and have been very pleased with the administration, teachers and the entire staff. As opposed to the public school our older child attended which was horrible all the wat from K-9. We finally open enrolled him out if the district we are in. Let’s face it- you NEA pro public schoolers hate charters strictly because if the money following the students. In fact it was the first objection listed un this crap article! Got yoy! Thank. God for school choice cs. Public school nazi’s!!!

  3. There have been many instances in Hawaii where charter schools kick students with disabilities out even disabilities such as ADHD so that they can keep their test scores up. Other instances include employees getting paid even though they are flight attendants so records were falsified and other instances where money was taken and given to family members to buy cars and trips. In every instance, it is the students who ultimately paid the price.


      Your comments are correct.

      This doesn’t change the fact that this NEA article is one-sided to the point of being propaganda.

      The NEA says that charter schools have failed, that they are a fiscal and educational disaster. This is a gross exaggeration.

      All the NEA had to do Google search to find out that the jury is still out on charter schools.


    “The NEA Pulls a CNN: Very Fake News About Charter Schools”

    In many ways this article is propaganda and fake news.

    The NEA backs us its assertion that charter schools are a failure by referencing a study by the Network for Public Education.

    This Network for Public Education is an advocacy group for public education so its bias should be clear.

    A quick Google search provides a completely different perspective on charter schools.

    I am not taking a position either way but suffice it to say that the only fair conclusion is that the jury is still out.

    One thing, however, is certain.

    The NEA’s declaration that the “Charter School experiment has failed,” is way overblown.

    1. The study WAS NOT conducted by the NEA. They are reporting the findings from the group that did the study. Take a look at The Detroit Free Press investigation into charter school failures. There have been and continue to be investigations into the many failure. I bet the Google search you propose puts sites in order so that you can find those very rare instances of a decent charter school. Here’s an experiment for you to try on your own. “Pretend” you have a special needs child, let’s say he/she is autistic with ADHD, you would like to enroll in one of your local charter schools then come back on here and sing the praises of how wonderful they might be.

    1. Well you’re ignorant Betty. This was a 100% biased report. You probably get all your news from CNN too right? Public schools are a cess pool and uncaring brueaceatic nightmare. Had 1 kid in public and this time in a charter. Charter wins hands down. Done with publuc schools forever! Can’t find a charter? Then homeschool!!!

  5. It is a farce that anyone without any experience in the education field should lead the direction of our schools in the United States. It certainly reflects the level of thinking our U.S leader towards the importance of maintaining
    a democratic and progressive country; anyone can BUY a position in our government today!

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