HUNTSVILLE, Alabama _ Lawmakers have made it clear that they will be pushing the establishment of taxpayer-funded, privately-managed charter schools in the legislative session.
For more than a decade charter schools have been hailed as a panacea that provide both choice in school selection and superior outcomes to public schools. Since 2000, the number of charter schools in the U.S. increased by 266 percent. That dramatic growth has stalled to about 21 percent since 2008 in the face of tough economic times, the failure of charter schools to deliver on their promises, and the aura of massive fraud on the part of for-profit charter school companies that manage charter schools.
Fortunately, Alabama has been behind the curve in the development of charter schools. The light provided by the mistakes of many others who rushed to the charter school option can now help Alabama avoid some of the same mistakes.
Alabama should not approve the legislation being presented for two major reasons and for a whole host of smaller reasons. Consider the two big reasons.
Alabama cannot afford charter schools. Our state ranks well below the national average in per-pupil funding, 41st in the nation. Our state has cut funding for education for four consecutive years with the promise of a fifth year of cuts looming before us. Alabama classroom teachers in public schools spend an average of about $300 a year out of their pockets to buy supplies for their students and classrooms. No one, absolutely no one of reasonable mind, would contend that we can make our schools better by taking more money out of our public schools.