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A coalition of parent-led groups met in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to express frustration with urban school systems nationwide and advocate for solutions. And although the groups involved surely wouldn’t like to admit it, every single one of the complaints raised could be solved or improved through expanded school choice.
Among the groups included were the Advancement Project, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, Annenberg Institute, and the Journey for Justice Alliance. Those in attendance were angry about declining local control of schools, underinvestment, and school closures. Their predominant view was that charter schools are the great villains: They open, and traditional public schools close. Not all applicants can be admitted. Not all charters are run with people close to their neighborhoods and communities.
But charter and other non-government-run schools meet needs that public schools cannot. If a community feels its needs are not being met, government should make it easy for leaders in that community to open and operate a new school.
Among those lamenting the rise in charter schools was Judith Browne Dianis, a co-director of the Advancement Project. Browne Dianis claimed that charter schools have “no level of accountability” since they are not traditional public schools.
However, charter schools may actually be even more accountable to their students than traditional public schools.
Charter schools have to ensure families are satisfied with student performance in order to attract applications and sustain student populations. (In most jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, they are also scrutinized by local government and risk losing public money if they provide a substandard education.) In contrast, public schools are assigned students based on location, with little regard to school quality or student satisfaction.