How Standardized Testing is Contributing to the Rise in Charter Schools


More and more charter schools are appearing around the country, and in many cities, such as in Philadelphia (alternet), they are replacing public schools that have been shutdown.  For the most part, these school closings are due to low standardized testing scores that give government officials reasons to underfund and close schools (almost always in poor, inner-city communities).  These two issues are closely related: schools that have lower test scores generally get less funding than schools who do well; this in turn gives under-funded schools even fewer resources, essentially setting them up for failure. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have passed legislation that requires public education to rely heavily on testing (procon).  Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, mandating that public schools in all 50 states annually test their students.  In 2009, Obama passed Race to the Top, a program that makes schools compete for extra funding based on test scores.  Because of both of these programs, many schools have been forced to shut down, paving the way for private corporations to make profit off of investing in charter schools without thinking of students' best interests.

The way that charter schools are run allows private companies to invest in them.  These corporations do so because they gain huge profits from it.  In 2000, congress passed a bill (alternet and shadowproof) that included the New Market tax credit (shadowproof).  This policy allows companies who invest in projects in underserved communities to receive up to 39% in tax credits.  This means that in seven years, a company could double the initial amount that it invested (alternet).  Aside from this, there are also other tax credits, breaks, and interest payments that incentivize companies to invest in these types of projects.  In addition, if an international donor gives $500,000 or more to charter schools through a government program called EB-5, that person can get immigration visas for their family (alternet).

At first glance, this may not seem so bad: companies are investing in education.  However, investing in charter schools isn't doing any good for public education.  Instead, it is creating federally funded schools that are run by companies who's only goal is to make the most money possible.  In places like Michigan and Ohio, companies are deciding to reduce teachers' wages, increase administration costs and reduce instructional costs (per student) (yesmagazine).  Spending less per student on instruction means that students are getting a worse education, while spending more on administration is only beneficial for making a larger profit.

The problem of charter schools and money for education is cyclical.  Standardized testing gives legislators the excuse they need to close public schools in poor communities, leaving students in those areas only one option: enrolling in charter schools that promise a lot and deliver very little.