The cause for charter schools—even more particularly on this topic, the charter schools in NYC —and the privatization of American education recently scored a big victory with New York’s Success Academy (SA), which won the 2017 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. This award, which is handed out to charter networks in the U.S. with the best academic outcomes for marginalized students, is tainted with irony. In fact, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has vocally opposed the school’s growth from the very beginning.
A Win for Charter Schools in NYC
Success Academy will be collecting a $250,000 prize money to be used for its college-readiness program. After being refused classroom space in the city, Success Academy CEO and former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz is now laughing all the way to the bank—and perhaps beyond.
Success Academy is one of 170 charter schools in NYC and over 6,800 in 42 states across America. Reports say there are three million American students who go to charter schools. Charter schools also fall under the public school system but get funding depending on how much is dictated by each state. These schools offer a specialized curriculum, such as one that heavily leans towards vocational training, arts or mathematics. Notably, in 2016, SA students ranked in the top 10 percent in Math, Science and English. While politicians like de Blasio oppose the charter school system, it is championed by school choice and school voucher program proponents like U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Charter Schools vs. Public Schools
Charter Schools originated and begun in Minnesota in the early 1990s. It comes with a special charter or set of rules from the state. These schools cannot charge students tuition fees because they do receive public funding. Additionally, charter schools can’t set admission requirements. If there are more students than what the school accommodates, the students are chosen by drawing lots.
Charter schools—such as the charter schools in NYC —offer flexibility in their programs and classes. They can also offer courses which they feel would interest students, unlike public schools which need to follow a set curriculum and school calendar.
Public policy advocates have said that charter schools started because people were unhappy with the American public school system. There were also issues with ethnicity, wealth and location. In essence, people hoped that charter schools would be able to offer more than what public schools could.
For decades now, educators like Betsy DeVos have been fighting for the establishment of more charter schools to encourage school choice. She also believes that private schools should be opened to nonaffluent students through “vouchers”—a form of financial assistance. This voucher will allow poor but deserving students to go to a private school without public funding.
Charter Schools and Beyond
Instead of relying on taxpayer’s money, there is a move to grant higher tax credits to companies and private entities which offer scholarships and other forms of assistance.
According to DeVos, graduation rates are significantly higher in charter school systems compared to public schools. While charter schools cannot really boast of “quality over quantity”, in terms of graduates, they can and do monitor their students’ performance. Charter schools which underperform are eventually closed down. Fortunately, New York’s Success Academy—representing the rest of the charter schools in NYC—, Eva Moskowitz, and Betsy DeVos live to fight another day.