Charter schools are those schools that receive public money but are not subject to rules, laws and regulations that are meant for other public schools. Theses schools are not supposed to charge tuition fees as they are considered to be a part of the public education system. These schools can be established by teachers, parents or non-profit groups and universities.
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, about 4.5% of the students in the U.S. now attend charter schools. This means that around two million children have been enrolled in these schools over the past one year. This 13% increase in enrollment has been the largest single year increase. Ursula Wright, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is overwhelmed by this improvement because she feels that this shows that more and more parents now want quality education for their children. However, it is also a fact that although enrollment in the charter schools has increased, academic performance of these schools has not shown much improvement. As per the 2009 Stanford University study in 16 states, only 17% schools performed better than other public schools, whereas 37% did not show a significant result.
Nevertheless, admission in these schools has been increasing in the recent years. This is because these schools are independent of some of the laws and mandates applicable for other public schools. The schools are free to introduce teaching methods and curriculum that may be beneficial for students but are not supported by the general school regulations. This is the reason why the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama rule has withdrawn restrictions regarding the establishment of charter schools. According to Charter school advocate Joe Nathan, charter schools have been on the rise just because they provide an alternative to traditional public schools which are failing to offer quality education.
In spite of these good points, charter schools have faced criticisms as well. There have been debates over the issue of what charter schools are exceptionally good and do they have a positive impact on the education scenario of the States. These schools are believed to extract money from the public sector in the name of fundraising. They also turn aspiring students away. Nathan, however, presents a different view. He says that charter schools encourage students from low income groups and students from non English speaking background.
According to Myron Orfield, a law professor and director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Race and Poverty, charter schools take away students along with the funds to which he or she is entitled. Instead, they hardly contribute something significant to the academic performance level. But in spite of all these, enrollment is increasing in the charter schools because of its independent position from the state education system, alternative curriculum and good quality education.