Charter schools are essentially publicly financed private schools — a gimmick invented when school voucher proponents couldn’t win the political battle on direct payments to existing private schools. Legal rulings are making this distinction clearer.
Diane Ravitch notes a National Labor Relations Board decision that makes the point:
The NLRB ruled that charter schools are private schools, not public schools. This echoes several previous rulings by the courts and the NLRB, which concluded that charter schools are private corporations that contract with government and are not “state actors.” Public schools are “state actors.” Charter schools are not.
This particular decision is important in making it harder to unionize charter schools.
But it illustrates again the number of ways charter schools are less accountable to the taxpayers than true public schools. It’s not just a lack of an elected school board. They enjoy exemptions that allow some of them, for example, to hide their dropout rates in early grades, a significant factor in measuring performance against real public schools. The management corporations that draw big chunks of money from the state are impenetrable by the Freedom of Information Act, as are many of the real estate interests they work with. Public schools reveal far more. And they can’t get rid of bad actors as easily as charter schools can. What teacher wouldn’t like a school where parents sign contracts and kids and families that don’t get the program can be shown the door?