Between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, the number of students enrolled in charter schools rose by nearly 13%, to just over two million students nationwide, according to a new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 110 school districts across the nation have at least 10% of their students enrolled in charter schools, 16 more than last year.
New Orleans leads the nation with 70% of its students enrolled in charter schools, the New York Times reported last week. Detroit, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, each have more than 30% of their public school students attending charter schools. New York City saw a 24% jump in charter school enrollment over the past year. California currently has the highest total number of charter schools, according to the WSWS.
The rise of charter schools has come primarily as a result of a highly effective and well-funded PR campaign financed by billionaires like Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad and others, that has painted the entire traditional public school system as a complete failure and charter schools as their best salvation. They have spent millions of dollars propping up fledgling charters that could not possibly have survived or thrived without private donations. They have bought politicians and initiatives in many states, resulting in laws that facilitate the creation of new charter schools and that defund traditional schools (like NCLB and Parent Trigger laws, which have been used to foist charter schools upon communities). Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers have also jumped into the charter school circus, recognizing the large profits to be made in public education (see here and here).
Proponents have even created their own reality with bogus studies that “prove” that charter schools are far more effective than they actually are. In reality, charter schools are no better than traditional public schools. A national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford found that while 17% of charter schools produced better results than neighborhood public schools, 37% were significantly worse, and the rest were no different. Also, many of the studies that have found superior outcomes at charter schools were based on dubious or misinterpreted data.
Furthermore, charter schools are far more segregated than traditional public schools. 70% of black charter school students attend schools with 90-100% minority students, 75% of whom are also black, yet black students make up only one-third of all charter school students. Half of Latino charter students also attend racially isolated minority schools. Charter schools are also segregated by class. While, poor students make up 40% of public school students, they make up only 17% of private religious and 10% of private secular school students. (For more on charter school segregation (see here, here and here.) Additionally, many push out or block special education students and English Language Learners from enrolling. In contrast, traditional public schools must accept all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity or physical or mental ability.