The Washington Post recently published an editorial praising the city’s charter schools, claiming that those schools’ students outperform their public school counterparts “not because they come from more privileged backgrounds but because the charters are free to innovate and implement practices that work.” The editorial pointed to an analysis the paper did that found the city’s charter school students doing better on tests, attendance and graduation.
“Clearly,” the editorial argues, “the ‘no-excuses’ innovations of the best charters make a difference: longer school days, summer classes, an inclusive culture of parental involvement, and the power to hire teachers who are committed to a school’s philosophy and dismiss teachers who aren’t up to the job.”
When it comes to schools, the private-is-better mantra is a popular one in corporate media. But is the Post editorial’s conclusion really so “clear” from the paper’s news analysis? That article pointed to a big factor unmentioned by the editorial board: money.
The charters get about $3000 more per pupil per year than the public schools, which “can provide a crucial advantage over traditional public schools.” The schools also have access to loans and grants that the public schools don’t. The article described some of the larger charter schools’ multi-million dollar surpluses that have gone to hiring additional staff and high-tech equipment.
And guess what? “The extra funding, it turns out, coincides with improved academic performance. The schools with the largest surpluses have ranked at the top on test scores.”
It’s hard to get much clearer than that–but it seems putting more funding towards public schools is not nearly as appealing to the Post editorial board as allowing more schools to lay off teachers at will.