2 Takes, 1 Issue: Charter schools foster education through diversity

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A charter school is an institution of public education that operates independently from the school districts in which they are located and receives both government and private funding.

Charter schools operate like public schools in that they are free of tuition, open to all students and must take state and federal standardized tests. While they operate in many of the same capacities as public schools, charter schools have more freedom in their curricula and are exempt from some regulations that public schools must adhere to. In exchange for this freedom, charter schools are more strictly monitored and must achieve their academic and charter promises in order to retain funding.

As of 2014, charter schools were found to be more diverse than public schools. Charter schools across the U.S. have an average of 34 percent white, 27 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic and four percent Asian/Pacific Islander students. This relatively diverse student setting is much more balanced than traditional public schools, which average a 51 percent white, 15 percent black, 25 percent Hispanic and five percent Asian/Pacific Islander makeup of their student body.

Beyond the obvious benefits to participating in an increasingly diverse world – like increased tolerance, cultural awareness and collaboration, to name a few – diversity in the U.S. is rapidly increasing. By being educated in a more diverse setting, students in charter schools will be more equipped to work in a diverse setting and better operate in the world around them. Students who go through less diverse public education will be less equipped and knowledgeable than students of charter schools when operating in a diverse world outside of their schooling.

In the Midwest, cities that once were majority white are becoming more diverse at a faster rate, meaning the status quo of homogeneous Midwest suburban neighborhoods will be disrupted in a short amount of time. Missouri and its neighboring states are experiencing “the greatest rate of [racial and ethnic] change,” according to a Washington Post article analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data.

Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Charter schools in the Missouri and Kansas more accurately represent the racial and ethnic makeup of the states than do public schools.

In Missouri, charter public schools have an average of 10 percent white, 78 percent black, nine percent Hispanic and one percent Asian students – whereas traditional public schools have an much less diverse average of 76 percent white, 15 percent black, four percent Hispanic and one percent Asian students.

Charter and traditional public schools in Kansas are more closely representative in the state average of racial makeup of traditional public schools versus charter public schools. Traditional public schools are on average composed of 69 percent white, seven percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and two percent Asian students whereas charter public schools have an average population of 76 percent white, seven percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and one percent Asian students. However, it is important to note that this balance comes from the state average – among the three different school districts in the study with a high population of students, charter schools were shown to be much more diverse than traditional public schools on a district level.

Not only is diverse schooling important to prepare students for the diverse world and work spaces that they will operate in, it is crucial to be better for human purposes. A lack of diversity breeds ignorance and, sadly all too common, hatred or animosity against other cultures because of that ignorance. One of the best ways to ensure the next generation of people is less ignorant than the last is to better educate them.

By having a more diverse racial and ethnic makeup than their peer traditional public schools, charter schools will more likely educate more socially conscious and tolerant individuals.

Besides educating more socially adept students, charter schools consistently gain higher letter grades than traditional public schools in the cities examined – New York City, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

The higher average of academic achievement can be attributed to the fact that charter schools, and the funding they receive, are bound to the academic standards they specify in their charter. If a school does not meet the goals of the charter, or requirements by the state, they will likely lose funding – this motivates them to try to achieve more.

Opponents of charter schools cite a high faculty turnover rate as an issue with the type of schooling as a whole. A high faculty turnover rate means less stability for students, which can negatively affect the grades and overall education of the student. The teacher-student relationship is a key part of a successful education.

While a high teacher attrition rate is an issue in charter schools, the issue is not solely due to the nature of charter schools. Public schools have similar issues with retaining teachers – for instance, over 20 teachers left my school when I was a junior in a public high school. The issue of teacher attrition is complex and must be comprehensively dealt with in every type of schooling. Nevertheless, because it is not a problem that can be attributed to only charter schools, it should not be a reason that charter schooling is singularly criticized.

Charter schools have many benefits. Since they are public, all students are able to go and have no tuition. However, charter schools also receive private funding – allowing them to specialize their education techniques and goals. The increased diversity better equips students to be successful in the outside world and workforce. The benefits of charter schools, a hybrid of private and public education, outweigh criticisms against the type of schooling.

Photo courtesy of WBUR.

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