Kevin Welner: Why charter schools are not as ‘public’ as they claim to be
Kevin Welner, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently appeared in The Conversation to explain why charter schools are not all that “public,” a finding that he wrote about in School’s Choice, a book co-authored by Wagma Mommandi
In our book, we identify and describe 13 different approaches that charters use to bring certain types of students in and push other kinds of students out.
Here are four examples from our book.
1. Targeted marketing and advertising
By using specific types of language in their promotional materials and by targeting those materials to specific audiences, charter schools often send a message that they are looking for a certain type of student. This is a way for charter schools to reach or appeal to a certain audience but not others, which in turn shapes who ends up applying to a given school.
For instance, Mueller Charter Leadership Academy in San Diego told prospective families that “All eligible students are welcome to apply. However, it should be noted that because this is a highly advanced, demanding program, it may not be appropriate for everyone.”
2. Conditional applications
Charter schools sometimes require multiple essays or a minimum GPA as a condition for initial or continuing enrollment.
Roseland Accelerated Middle School in Santa Rosa, California, for instance, required applicants to submit five short essays plus an autobiography using “well constructed and varied structure.”
3. Parents required to ‘volunteer’
Some charter schools require parents to volunteer a certain amount of time at the school, or pay money in lieu of volunteering. Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Florida, for example, required each family to complete 30 such “volunteer hours” per year, but allowed 20 of those hours to be “purchased” – US$100 total to buy out the first 10 hours and $200 more for the next 10 hours. These requirements place an additional burden, in terms of time and money, on families that are already struggling economically.
4. Aggressive use of discipline.
At so-called “no excuses” charters that “sweat the small stuff”, students have – at least historically – been subjected to harsh discipline for minor infractions, such as chewing gum or failing to constantly keep their eyes on the teacher during class.