Public charter schools do not “rob” money from public education

Nov 19, 2019

The Seattle Times recently repeated one of the meanest and most persistent falsehoods spread about charter school families; that they somehow “rob” money from public schools.  The article says:

“The nascent [charter school] sector here has attracted many critics, though, who say the schools rob money from traditional public schools and face less oversight.”

Of the many calumnies leveled against charter school families, this one is the most dishonest.

Children who attend a charter public school are not “robbing” other public schools.  That’s like saying a family that moves from Seattle to Tacoma is “robbing” Seattle public schools of money.   What is really happening is a family has decided to change public schools, something parents do every day.

Charter schools are public schools in the system of public education, just like Running Start, Career and Technical courses, magnet schools, online programs like Insight and other tax-funded learning choices.  No reasonable person says that Insight High School “robs” other public schools, or that a Running Start student at a community college is “stealing” from the system.  

Further, it’s not fair to criticize parents for the responsible choices they make to benefit their children.  Is it fair to attack a public school teacher who places her own child in a magnet school?  Is that parent “robbing” her local public school?  Of course not.

In fact, if anyone is being robbed it’s charter school families.  School districts consistently deny equal funding to charter school families, blocking fair access to local levy funds and capital funding.

This is not small change.  Seattle district officials cut in-city charter schools by about $3,000 for every student they accept.  They also refuse to provide classrooms and other facilities, thus forcing charters to pay rent on their buildings, something no other public school is required to do.

Yet charter schools are fully public schools, funded by state and federal tax money, governed by state law and accountable to OSPI, the Charter School Commission, the State Board of Education and other public oversight.  (Another falsehood leveled at charter families is that their schools are “privately run.”)

In many ways charter public schools have more official oversight than other public schools, but their families receive less money for education. 

Some district officials and unions are furious that charter school families have escaped their control by seeking a public alternative that works better for their children.  That deep resentment may feed the angry politics that infests many urban school districts, but it does not serve the learning needs of children.

Stated simply, a public charter school is not a private school.  Only those who can’t tolerate the idea of parents making public education choices for themselves continue to say otherwise.




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