Claim: Charter schools are "experimental" and "risky" and the state should not shift tax dollars to these schools when it cannot fully fund traditional district schools.
1.6 million parents have chosen to enroll their children in public charter schools in 5,000 schools throughout 40 states and the District of Columbia. Every charter school is required to submit a thorough, detailed, and evidence-based education plan that must be approved prior to it ever opening. Charter schools are NOT experimental.
Claim: Charter school performance is abysmal. Without citation, opponents have claimed such things as "9 out of the bottom 10 schools in ISTEP passage rates are charter schools;" and " 21 out of the bottom 25, and 31 of the bottom 50 schools in ISTEP passage rates are charter schools."
The best measure of any school’s success – public charter or traditional – is a combination of both performance and improvement. Given that virtually all charter schools seek to serve students who need the most help, the amount of improvement is especially critical in understanding their effectiveness. Fortunately, our state’s accountability system – Public Law 221 – includes both performance and improvement.
On this state’s accountability system, 70.4% of Indiana charter schools ranked in the top three category placements; 46.3% of these ranked in the top category.
Four charter schools (8%) do appear on the list of the 50 schools with the lowest test scores. Each opened less than three years ago, serving students who started significantly behind on the ISTEP test.
- Indianapolis Project School (opened 2008; initial ISTEP pass ELA & Math: 29.9%)
- Imagine Life Sciences Academy East (opened 2008; initial ISTEP pass ELA & Math: 22.9%)
- Aspire Charter Academy (opened 2008; initial ISTEP pass ELA & Math: 23.9%)
- Imagine Schools on Broadway (opened 2008; initial ISTEP pass ELA & Math: 22.8%)
These schools administered the 2010 ISTEP a mere 18 months after opening, and each began with a benchmark of less than 30% passing both ELA/MATH (2008 ISTEP). The true measure of these schools’ effectiveness is not the quality of education students received BEFORE coming to these charter schools 18 months prior, but how well these schools IMPROVE student learning.
Claim: Charter schools are not held to the same accountability standards as traditional district schools but they should be.
Charter schools are currently held to a higher standard than traditional public schools because they can be closed down by their sponsor for failing to perform. HB 1002 (the bill opposed by charter opponents) increases even this level of accountability by allowing the State Board to intervene after three consecutive years of underperformance instead of the six years that traditional public schools are given.
It is important to note that NO charter school in the state has received the state’s lowest PL221 category for EVEN THREE consecutive years.
Claim: Charter schools are not held accountable to taxpayers.
Public charter schools are accountable to both parents AND taxpayers. If the charter school fails to perform, they may be shut down. In addition, parents who are dissatisfied with those schools can choose another option for their child.
Charter schools are demonstrating a heightened fiscal accountability to taxpayers; statewide, they receive less funding per student than traditional public school students and often raise significant amounts of private money to support their operations. When public school funding was cut across the board by 3.5% last year, charter schools took the identical cut as every other public school creating an even greater difficulty for them because they have no local tax dollars to help offset the cut. Further, they are not able to initiate a local referendum to raise taxes to cover shortfalls.
Claim: Charter schools are not open to all children and enjoy "enrollment exemptions."
Indiana code states that charter schools can ensure that their current students and any siblings are not split up, by giving them first priority. They are not allowed to limit enrollment in any other way. We agree that every Hoosier student should have the choice to attend charter schools. We support efforts to grow and expand charter schools, particularly those with high waiting lists, to allow more kids to receive high-quality, public education.