Oversight, Charter Schools, and a Thorough and Efficient System of Public Education
45 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2018 Last revised: 23 Jan 2019
Date Written: September 26, 2018
What does accountability mean in the context of public education? Many charter school advocates often argue that charters are superior to traditional public schools because they are more accountable but do not identify how they are accountable or to whom. This article interrogates the meaning of “accountability” in the conversation about charter schools, particularly in the context of Philadelphia, where over one third of the public school population is enrolled in charters and charter funding occupies approximately 40 percent of the Philadelphia School District budget.
I argue that accountability should go beyond simply market accountability in the form of parental choice. Oversight of charters is essential if the Commonwealth is to fulfill its obligation to provide a thorough and efficient system of public education to the residents of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a primary constitutional obligation to provide public education. To the extent those in government decide to include charters in the mix of how that education is provided, they must ensure oversight of the funds provided for charters to avoid use of public funds that are spent to the detriment, not the benefit, of Pennsylvanians. This article provides a granular examination of the charter application process in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia School District’s Charter Schools Office (CSO) has developed best practices for oversight which have increased the information available to the public about the education, finances, governance, and regulatory compliance of the charters it oversees. It carefully and extensively evaluates applications for new charters and requests for renewal. But the reaction to this effort has been hostility from those who appear to think that oversight equals attack, rather than careful stewardship of public funds. True accountability should involve careful oversight and not blind approval of anything a charter school operator chooses to do with the public money entrusted to it.
Keywords: charter schools, privatization, education reform, oversight, accountability, school choice
JEL Classification: K19, K23, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation