As someone who has observed the breakneck pace of the growing charter school movement up close, Greg Richmond, who leads the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), is taking a step back.
On Wednesday morning, Richmond will join New Jersey Schools Commissioner Chris Cerf and California charter schools advocate Jed Wallace at Washington D.C.’s National Press Club to announce a new campaign, “One Million Lives,” that aims to crack the whip on the duds.
The campaign will focus on getting states to adopt rules that make failing charter schools close automatically, hold charter authorizers accountable for their schools’ performance, and revamp their authorizing bodies so they become more professional. Initial allies include organizations and philanthropies that have, until now, focused on growth — rather than quality — in the charter sector.
Charter schools are publicly funded but independently run, and often admit students via lottery. Proponents such as the Obama administration advocate for charter schools in the belief that educational opportunity should not depend on zip code, and that running schools without regulations — without district-imposed curricula or mandatory union representation — gives schools more room to innovate and succeed, unencumbered by bureaucracy.
But critics have long claimed that the schools siphon money away from public schools, and a steady stream of evidence has shown that, on average, charter schools do not outperform traditional public schools. NACSA found that between 900 and 1,300 charter schools are performing within the lowest 15 percent of schools within their state.
Because of results like this, some say an initiative like One Million Lives is long overdue. About a year ago, several charter school supporters told HuffPost that the movement needed to check itself, since it would be hard for politicians to continue advocating for funding these schools without definitive results, and with so many underperforming schools continuing to operate.
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