America’s Failing Public Schools: Charter Schools Are Not the Solution
It was with wild fanfare that the state’s Republican legislature and Republican Governor enacted their reforms for the state’s public school system. Among the panaceas was charter schools, a ‘90s education fad that gives individual parents the right to send their children to state-approved public charter schools at public expense. Politicians reasoned that less-bureaucratic charter schools would teach students better than traditional public schools because charter schools wouldn’t be subject to the same mandates that the state had heaped upon public schools. Furthermore, traditional schools would be forced to compete with charter schools as they lured thousands of students and millions of dollars away from traditional public schools. Competition from charter schools would then lead to all-around better schools in the state as traditional public schools improved themselves to remain competitive with the cutting-edge charter schools.
The charter school program aimed to allocate educational resources via market mechanism by shifting towards freedom of contract. However, the plan unfairly mixes individual decision making with the expenditure of public tax dollars. Moreover, the competition through which legislators sought to improve education throughout state schools has failed to materialize as students enrolled in Michigan charter schools remain a drop in the bucket.
In this paper, I will show how the charter school movement represents a limited shift towards freedom of contract and explain why this shift is unfair to the taxpayers of the state of Michigan. Further, I will argue that the market mechanism has not yet become a factor in public education in Michigan but that it can be a method for allocating educational resources. Finally, I will offer my solution for improving state schools, which attempts to create strong individual citizens and to remain accountable to the taxpayers of Michigan.
Charter schools are aimed at giving parents and educators greater freedom to design an educational program aimed at increasing student achievement, accounting for greater freedom of contract between not only parent and school but also school and state.
There are a number of ways that charter schools give parents greater individual control over their childrens’ education. No longer is a child bound to attend a particular school based on the geographical location of his or her home. Parents have the freedom to select a charter school that they feel would best suit the needs of their children1. Parents also have a greater say in the affairs of charter schools compared to public schools. In many instances, parents serve on the “board of education” governing the charter school, a board whose context is determined by a school’s charter and not state law. This contrasts with the traditional public school board that is limited to seven members elected from the...