Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Writer cites four reasons why charter schools aren't a good rural fit, and one circumstance in which they might be

About 90 percent of the nation's charter schools are in urban areas, but school-choice advocates are eager to open more in rural areas. There are a few reasons that charter schools aren't a good fit in rural America, Peter Green writes for Forbes magazine.

For one thing, rural schools are at the heart of their communities. "In rural and small-town areas, grown adults still identify themselves by what high school they graduated from. Sporting events, school concerts, art displays -- these are attended by all sorts of people who are not actual parents of the participants," Green writes. "Launching a charter school in this setting is about as welcome as having a guy move into the house next door and inviting your children to call him 'Dad'."

Along those lines, rural communities aren't always welcome to outsiders, especially overconfident ones out to "fix" rural America. "Every small town can tell a story about some city big shot who rolled into town and thought he was going to institute sweeping changes, only to fall flat on his face," Green writes. "Charter operators have a history of bypassing the local community they enter, of doing charters to the locals instead of with them."

Also, rural public schools are almost all underfunded already. If a charter school lures students (and their state funding) away, public schools in the area would likely be hurt.

Conversely, there are reasons charter advocates might not want to go into rural communities. It's more profitable for charters to launch in high-density population areas, since students come with state funding. And rural areas tend not to have the kind of wealthy backers ready to help finance charters that urban areas do, Greene writes.

All that being said, charters can be a good fit in rural areas under certain circumstances. "The small community of Tidioute, Pennsylvania, lost its public school due to budget cuts in the larger district of which they were a part. So to keep the heart of their community intact and their children's education local, they re-opened their local school as a charter school, operated and controlled by local folks," Greene writes. "It is the one approach to rural chartering that makes sense--a local school under local control created to meet a local need. That's a good charter fit."

No comments: