Why does Georgia support charter schools more than other states?

Why are charter schools more popular in some states than others?

That question gained relevance after the 2017 Education Next survey on K-12 education documented a steep slide in the public’s view of charter schools. This year, 39 percent of respondents said they support “the formation of charter schools,” down from 51 percent in 2016.

The decline intrigued Mike Petrilli, president of the pro charter Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and even more so after he examined unpublished data from a different survey that included a charter school question  in a recent sampling of states, including Georgia.

As Petrilli wrote on his blog: (He goes into detail so please read his blog if this topic interests you.)

The question put to a representative sample of registered voters was: “Please indicate whether you support or oppose creating more charter schools—public schools run by private companies or nonprofit organizations—to compete with traditional public schools.” You don’t have to be a charter school apologist or polling expert to see that this question is worded in a very charter-unfriendly way…But it doesn’t seem to matter because the survey found that 40 percent of Americans support charters, virtually identical to the 39 percent identified by Education Next with a question worded much more fairly.

Of the sampled states, Georgia showed the greatest public support for charters at 50 percent, as shown in this Fordham illustration.

 

Why would Georgians support charters in higher numbers than voters in other states?

Petrilli ruled out political leanings, given the mix of red and blue states at the top. He also doubted it was school quality. Of the states on the list, New York leads in charter quality, while charters in Georgia perform about the same as traditional public schools.

Mike Petrilli wondered why voters in some states were more supportive of charter schools. (Fordham Institute)

Then, Petrilli looked at charter school students eligible for free or reduced price lunch in each state. What he found: Generally, the greater degree to which charters served poor students, the less public support was expressed.  Conversely, more middle-class students in charters meant more support. (That same dynamic of serving both middle-class and low-income kids explains the deep public support in Georgia for the HOPE Scholarship.)

“Georgia’s traditional public schools serve a higher proportion of low-income students than Georgia’s charter schools do — a difference of 6 percentage points,” writes Petrilli. “In Ohio, meanwhile, traditional public schools on average have 30 percentage points fewer students eligible for free or reduced price lunch than do charter school peers. ”

Petrilli concludes:

But it sure suggests to me that, if we’re looking for a generalizable explanation for state-by-state differences in support for charters, the degree to which they serve middle- class kids and not just low-income children might be a leading candidate. If that’s true, what does it mean? First, it would put charter schools in line with the old liberal adage that “a program for the poor is a poor program.” It’s hard to maintain public support for a targeted investment, especially when the beneficiaries are themselves poor and relatively powerless. This is why Social Security is much more popular than most welfare programs.

Second, it might tell us about how the public views schools. Voters might perceive “schools for poor kids” as low-quality schools. That is of course unfair and prejudiced, but it may reflect the reality of public opinion.

Third, and less cynically, perhaps when charter schools serve a broader population, including middle class kids in the suburbs, more people come into contact with them. And familiarity breeds positivity.

I emailed Petrilli to ask whether press coverage of failing charters or charter school scandals might play a role. (Ohio’s charters — with the least public support in the state sampling — don’t perform well overall, and there’s been a lot of media attention on their dismal achievement. )

While he had considered looking at negative press coverage, Petrilli said the analysis proved too time-consuming, but added, “I agree that it likely is a factor, certainly in Ohio. Of course, the Ohio charter schools deserve it.”

Petrilli stressed this is not a scientific finding, but food for thought about why some states would have a greater appetite for charters than others.

What are your thoughts?

 

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
Mandingo
Mandingo

It  ALMOST seems like kids will do much better being home schooled where the basics of  good reading , good grammar ,  basic math  and writing skills are driven home. It is damn near impossible to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills with out a strong foundation. Based on the standardized test results kids do not get the basics in Georgia public schools as a whole. 

Starik
Starik

@Mandingo Home schooling works only when the teachers (parents) are qualified to teach. Teachers can't teach a subject they haven't mastered themselves.  

Annie
Annie

The data disputes that, Mandingo.

J260
J260

Given that middle class parents are doing a much better job of supporting themselves and their children as compared to those who have to depend on free or reduced lunches to feed their own kids, I think it is very safe to assume that the middle class parents have a much better idea of what their kids need to succeed.


Cracks me up that liberals always think that successful working people who pay their own way and pay all the taxes are the problem, and that more poor people and more taxes and more spending are the solution.


Maybe public schools ought to set up some seminars in the evenings after school where the free and reduced lunch parents can come and talk to the middle class parents and ask questions and learn how to support themselves and support their own children.





J260
J260

Unbearable and a complete, miserable failure, absolutely.

L_D_
L_D_

@Maureen - I am so glad you asked him about the press coverage.  Also, it would be interesting to break down the results based upon the state laws/policies.  If I recall correctly, Ohio permits a much larger number of authorizers - which can make it more difficult to ensure quality.  Also, some states have loopholes which permit individuals to greatly profit off the schools.  Georgia actually learned from the mistakes in some other states and has a very limited path to authorization (which means they have a better opportunity to ensure the quality of the schools) and fewer profitable loopholes.


Astropig
Astropig

I think that the answer here is a lot simpler than all of this navel-gazing by the author is designed to convey:


Georgians are good,decent people that simply want parents to have the primary role in deciding what educational option delivers the best result for their kids.This isn't really as complicated as some people would like it to be.Charter schools are no magic bullet,magic solution or magic anything.They are just another way to accomplish what parents want so that their kids will have a good future.

Cats_Resist
Cats_Resist

@Astropig So then by extension, Ohioans aren't good, decent people? Maybe the 'naval-gazing' you criticize is a handy way of thinking through complex questions without taking the easy way out and vilifying persons you disagree with?

Astropig
Astropig

@Cats_Resist @Astropig


Ha ha.No,but thanks for trying to stuff words in my mouth.I guess that tactic works in your little world.


This piece comes across as the author being disappointed that all of the vitriol against charters and choice hasn't had the desired effect.Despite being beaten senseless with bigotry and hatred against parental empowerment,parents still want choice.(How dare they!) It seems that answers to all of the loaded questions toward the interviewee are...Unsatisfying to the questioner.That probably says more about the state of the media in our day and time than the choice movement.



Tiersa Holmes McClardy
Tiersa Holmes McClardy

Perhaps it puts a better face on potential segregation - by race and/or class in the South.

Kaycee Norman
Kaycee Norman

Nope, Metro Atlanta has several charter schools in Title 1 areas that have been beneficial to the students and teachers. I know several teachers that have left public schools for charter schools even though the pay is longer. It gives them the opportunity to teach smaller groups of students and meet their needs more effectively.

Tiersa Holmes McClardy
Tiersa Holmes McClardy

Kaycee Norman speaking on what I see and know . Charters in Title 1 areas are starting to create a class division - have and have nots scenarios due to enrollment policies/caps through lottery process etc.. I have former colleagues that are now employed by public charters that are excited about smaller class sizes, “Better students”, better parent support etc.... class division is beginning as local districts begin turning schools over to charter companies.

J260
J260

Yeah, it has to be racism and segregation, right?  No way that middle class parents simply want what's best for their kids, i.e. better schools.  And I didn't see anywhere that minority children are not welcome at the charter schools.

Starik
Starik

@EdJohnson Resegregation. Just like several Metro Atlanta districts. 

Lynn Nicolai Muench
Lynn Nicolai Muench

Yep, "it's beneficial" because they hand select their students, removing any who don't test well, have a physical disability, have less involved parents, etc

feedback1
feedback1

The National Education Association has spent vast sums trying to turn the public against charters, just as with other political issues. 

But there's reason to believe the union has more success in states where unions are strong—not in Right-to-Work Georgia.

Then too, with fewer Georgia members they may be spending less of their union money here.

readcritic
readcritic

@feedback1 Charter schools are not a panacea. Having charter designation allows a school district to use the money without intense federal scrutiny. That is not always a good thing when creative administrators get involved. Ask teachers in Title I Charter school districts what they actually think of Charter schools and how the money is put to use. You may be surprised (shocked)!