Charter schools provide tremendous opportunity to innovate in public education, tailor curriculum to meet underserved students’ needs, and produce stronger educational results where academic achievement has been historically lacking. Nevertheless, in the public debate surrounding them they provoke a wide range of reactions, including one that is often underlying such discussions: confusion.
The laws and regulations surrounding charter schools are complex, and they vary widely from state to state. To help bring clarity to a complicated market, we are excited to announce State Scans: Charter School Markets Across the U.S. with presenting sponsor The Community Development Trust (CDT). Last week, the series made its debut with the release of its first issue, which focuses on the charter school market in Tennessee.
Why is such a report important? Simple: a higher degree of transparency will help the charter school sector (and the students filling its classrooms!) succeed. High quality information can help bring new players into the market and improve outcomes for those already involved. We hope State Scans will be the first report a lender reviews when underwriting a deal in a new state, or that a charter management organization turns to when considering expansion across state lines. We even believe that experienced operators in Tennessee may learn something new when reviewing our report.
On a grander scale, we hope this series of reports can play a small role in helping combat the misinformation and simple misunderstandings that are common in the important debates about education playing out daily on comment boards and in policy meetings throughout the U.S. There is confusion on major points—no, charter schools cannot handpick students, and yes, charter schools are fully public schools—as well as the finer details, many of which vary considerably from state to state. Friends and colleagues are often shocked to learn the charter school on whose board I served had unionized teachers. Many opponents think that charter schools and for profit operating companies are synonymous. Funding formulas challenge even the keenest policy wonk’s understanding. All of these points of confusion indicate a need for clearer, better organized information. State Scans is our attempt to provide it.
Click here to access the report, and don’t forget to enter your email to get future releases delivered straight to your inbox. We welcome your feedback on our Tennessee edition and look forward to shining a light on other states in the year to come.