Many politicians at the state and national level have an overarching goal of privatizing public schools, which is another part of the education reform agenda. Privatization is also referred to as school choice, charter school expansion, or private school vouchers.
Proponents of privatization argue that public schools have too much bureaucracy, which impedes innovation and progress. They often see schools as a business, with the idea that creating competition will increase efficiency and improve performance. Opponents of the privatization movement aren’t comfortable with the idea of business/profit being a primary driver of education because it often leads to the needs of individual students taking a back seat to profit-driving measures.
Charter schools have been in existence since 1988. The original concept was to create smaller learning environments where new ideas and programs could be tested before implementing them on a larger scale. Today, many charter schools are being used to move funding away from traditional public schools and often into the hands of private, for-profit corporations. Even though many charter schools are non-profit, they funnel money to for-profit entities through management companies and other vendor relationships. These for-profits are often heavily affiliated with politicians and/or their family members. Many public education supporters are concerned that this model misuses public tax dollars because the schools do not have as many regulations or accountability as traditional public schools.
Contrary to what some think, charter schools are public schools because they are funded with public tax dollars. Charter schools are required to use the Florida Standards and the same state-mandated high-stakes standardized tests that public schools use. The difference is in the way they operate. They have less restrictions for admissions decisions (traditional public schools are required to accept all students; charter schools are often selective of their student population), and less transparency about their management and operations. This can lead to mismanagement, financial misrepresentation, and in some cases downright fraud.
With all of that said, not all charter schools are bad. Some are providing excellent education opportunities for students. Here are some questions to ask when considering a charter school, to ensure it’s the best fit for your family.
Private School Scholarships/Savings
Another facet of privatization includes funneling tax dollars into private schools through the use of vouchers, scholarships or savings accounts.
A voucher is a certificate that a student can use that will allow them to receive the amount of funding the per-student funding provided to public schools by the state to pay for a portion of their private school tuition. Florida’s private school voucher is called the McKay Scholarship, and is intended for students with special needs.
Another option is the Gardiner Scholarship, which provides parents of special needs students with a scholarship that is administered through an Educational Savings Account (ESA). Funds are derived from public tax dollars, and can be used for things like private school tuition, tutoring or home education.
Florida also offers a tax credit scholarship that serves students from low-income households. Funds are derived from corporate taxes and insurance premiums, and provide funds for students to be transported to schools outside of their district.
And finally, the newest privatization initiative is referred to as the Hope Scholarship. Funds are derived from sales tax of motor vehicles, and are used for private school scholarships. Students can apply if they claim to have been a victim of bullying or violence in a public school.
More information about charter schools and privatization:
Charter Schools: Finding out the Facts: A study from the Center for Public Education that notes that charter schools do not outperform public schools
21 Myths about Charter Schools
Why Schools Aren’t Businesses: The Blueberry Story
Top 10 Reasons School Choice is no Choice
New Report Shines a Light into the Charter School Black Box
Report Shows Charter Schools Make Money for Private Businesses
Florida gave Charter Schools Millions Before they Closed
Florida policymakers trying to privatize entire state public school system
Charters lift some kids, but what about the ballast
A scandal that’s exposing ugly truths about the school privatization agenda
Florida’s Charter Schools, Unsupervised
A dozen problems with charter schools
Charter schools are cheating your kids: a report revealing fraud and mismanagement within some charter schools
An example of what charter school expansion is doing to traditional public schools
Privatization of Public Education – an early article from EdWeek about the for-profit charter school movement