Rhetoric vs. Results

Recently, the anti-school choice machine has turned up its rhetoric machine. They’re taking fresh swipes at the those who want to let parents and children choose for themselves—and, in the end, they’re forgetting what matters most—Michigan students.

What is unfortunate is that these groups are unable—or unwilling—to look at the situation in an objective fashion. If they did, they would find what Business Leaders for Michigan and PricewaterhouseCoopers did in their recent report: it is a myth that charters are to blame for Michigan’s K–12 results.  

Let’s put hard facts on the table–-71 percent of charter school students are economically disadvantaged. That’s much higher than the statewide average, which stands at 46 percent. 

It is clear that charter schools are willing and able to serve students that need education to rise up out of poverty. All available data indicate that schools with large percentages of minority and impoverished students do poorer on school ranking lists, but charters are willing to fight for better outcomes. And in many cases, they are successful.

No one has a silver bullet on urban or poor rural education. The problem is that we only hear one solution from today’s worn-out system—more money. 

The plain truth is at once more and less obvious than that. We need to re-imagine how we deliver the academic results our students deserve.

That is, in part, what charter schools were built to do. These schools are providing innovative approaches that can be tailored to the individual student. Some of these solutions work magnificently and some fall short. The difference you see in the charter school world is that there is accountability for results. 

Unlike the old model of schooling, charter schools are constantly evolving and dealing with the problems they have.  Six percent of Michigan’s charter schools faced reconstitution or closure over the last year due to their underpeformance relative to targets. This requires a charter school to be constantly growing, building and innovating in ways that deliver results, 100 percent of the time.

At the end of the day it is about empowering students and families. No one forces a student to go to a charter school. That is a decision that is left to a parent and child. 

Every day, people choose. They choose to go one way—to a failing traditional school—or to take another route to a charter school. For years individuals, not government, have made the decision that charter schools are better. 

At the end of the day, there is but one way for the old K–12 system to get at their end goal of eliminating charters. When they offer academic programs Michigan families deserve—the kinds of programs that produce student results that are second to none, there will be no reason for charters to continue existing.

Until that day comes, Michigan’s charter public school sector remains—doing the right things for our state’s schoolchildren and working for change.