Charter organization and their benefactors are aiming to ramp-up the number of charter schools within the next eight years. If they meet their goal, the number of students enrolled in charter schools would reach 300,000; that is more than twice as many as any other district in the U.S.
"Charter schools are publicly funded but independently operated, and are free from many of the regulations that govern district schools. They're also free of sometimes stultifying union rules. The large charter presence in L.A. speaks volumes about the high levels of dissatisfaction with many of the district's regular public schools."
It makes sense that Los Angeles would have more charter schools than anywhere else because Los Angeles has produced the most successful results when compared to traditional district public schools.
What more charter schools could bring to the table
Los Angeles has a large minority population, and charter schools bring low-income minority students an education that allows them to thrive in a way that they might not be able to in their low performing district school. Charter schools are making it possible to bring low-income children the education they deserve.
The charter school expansion will allow low-income students to get an education that will push them to thrive, but that is not the only benefit. An increase in charter schools will set the bar higher for district schools. Right now, there are enough kids to fill up well performing and low performing schools. But if better options become available and if district schools want to stay open, they are going to have to up their game. More charter schools can lead to a better education system on the whole: "Charter schools... have put significant competitive pressure on traditional schools, many of which have improved as a result." There could be plenty more of that to come.
What needs to change first
As promising as the charter school expansion is, there are a few things about the system that need to be changed or reconsidered.
Not all charter schools are created equal
Because charter schools run independently, they can be more challenging to regulate. It is important to realize that not all charter schools are superior to district schools. Those that are not meeting a certain educational standard should be fixed or closed. The idea is to raise the bar on education, and the charter schools that already exist are responsible for setting that bar.
Ensuring high quality teachers
The timing for expansion is not great when looking at it through a teacher perspective; there is currently a nation-wide teacher shortage, so attracting and retaining a large number of high-quality teachers will be a challenge. Good teachers are the crux of a good education and the reality of the situation is one that the charter school expansion team should seriously consider.
Ensuring good ethics
Though it has not been proved, "there have been numerous reports that charter schools, in an effort to improve their test scores, have prodded their lowest-performing students to leave and return to traditional public schools." Other accusations include hand-picking students that are expected to be the best performers, or requiring volunteer hours or applications from parents. This is unacceptable, as charter schools are supposed to accept all students the same way district schools do and implement a lottery system when there are more students than open spots.
It is important to be aware of the challenges that a mass expansion will present. That being said, in an ideal situation, expanding charter schools in Los Angeles will give children what they need from an education.