The Arizona Republic recently featured a two-part series on alleged financial improprieties of charter schools. Focusing on a small number of rogue schools leads one to wonder if the reporter's intent was to tar the entire charter school movement and invite a regulatory response.
The Goldwater Institute stands second-to-none in our demand for financial accountability for all public entities, including charter schools. But the Republic overlooks the real story-that charter schools as a whole outperform traditional public schools with significantly fewer dollars.
Arizona is the nation's leading pioneer of charter schools, which are public schools that are allowed to offer distinctive curricula (though even there, the Empire is striking back in the form of "curriculum alignment", which the Goldwater Institute is challenging in court).
Charter schools enroll only 7.5 percent of the state's children, yet by the state's own standards, nine out of ten of the top-ranked public schools are charter schools. Students attending charter schools typically are from poorer families and possess greater special needs than traditional public school students, yet they usually outperform the public schools with which they compete. Moreover, competition from charter schools boosts performance in traditional public schools, according to a study by Harvard Professor Caroline Hoxby.
The state should more carefully monitor financial governance at charter schools, and take action against the bad actors. But it also should aggressively promote parental choice in both the public and private educational sectors, for choice is the tide that lifts all boats.
Meanwhile, we eagerly await the Republic's expose on financial waste in traditional public schools-but won't hold our breath!
Clint Bolick is the director of the Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
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