The State of Schools: A Look At Charter Schools

By: Kara Haselton and Emily Davis

From 2007 to 2009, many states, including North Carolina, went through a difficult time of inflation, a decrease in home values, and an increase in unemployment levels; people refer to this time period as, “The Great Recession.” During that time, many areas of North Carolina’s state budget had money reallocated from certain budget items to provide for “more serious” matters. One of the areas that had a large amount of money deducted was the budget belonging to public school education. According to an infographic created by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, North Carolina had decreased funding for public education by 8.6% since 2008. The Washington Post also stated that in the 2014-15 budget cycle, the NC legislature “provided roughly $500 million less for education than [what] schools needed.” All of North Carolina Public Schools have suffered from the cuts in funding even after “The Great Recession.”

The Rural School and Community Trust published an article in 2013 entitled “North Carolina Launches Dramatic Changes in Education,” in which they say, “Beginning last year … the legislature… began making big changes to the public education system, dismantling many of the programs credited with the state’s education gains,” resulting in a great impact on the quality of education in North Carolina. One such diversion of funds is going towards charter schools.

The NC government has just recently voted on a bill this past September that was in favor of moving money from public to charter schools. Charter schools are a fairly recent innovation, having been created in the last 20 years, and they can provide some good opportunities for students. In the environment that charter schools have produced, there is freedom for creative curriculums and innovation that would otherwise not be allowed in traditional public schools. Some charter schools aim to cultivate diversity and encourage students to excel through school.

“Diverting money from public to charter schools hinders the effectiveness of public education.”

Even so, diverting money from public to charter schools hinders the effectiveness of public education. Originally, public schools had 35% more money set aside to provide for them, but now are going to have to “share addition federal funding, gifts and grants, sales tax revenues, and other funding,” states the News & Observer. They also commented on how the NC Association of School Administrators voted against the bill and said that “it would have a ‘significant negative impact’ on public school budgets.” As the North Carolina Senate pushed for further integration of students into charter schools, the per-pupil spending that accompanies these students is incorporated into charters, and removed from public schools.

Some of the money being diverted from public schools to charters is in order to help pay for programs that they may not even use, such as lunches. Charter schools are not required by law to serve lunches, and the very large majority of them do not. The NC Policy Watch quotes Senator Angela Bryant as saying, “…you’ll be taking food out of the mouths of children in public school—to a charter school that is not providing food—and that is wrong.” Those who want more funds for charters will argue, “What if a charter school wants to start providing food?” But what about public schools–which are already struggling financially–that have to provide food for the students because it’s the law?

“Charter school popularity is depleting some of the resources that traditional public schools need.”

While charter schools are beneficial for those students whose families can provide their own transportation and may come from a more positive home environment, they discriminate against those who maybe don’t have the same opportunities. The majority of charters, 87%, are non-profit and independent. However the last 13% are run by EMO’s, or “for profit education management corporations,” which are companies that oversee the school’s finances. There are concerns that this kind of setup will produce a business-like environment in the school and many disagree with running charter schools in this manner. Wouldn’t it make more sense for more attention and finances be spent on public schools since they house those who don’t have any other choice? Charter school popularity is depleting some of the resources that traditional public schools need. This will inevitably undermine the education of students who depend on public schools.