For a crumbling Providence school system, charter schools are part of the solution, and Dan McKee’s plans to veto a pause on charter school expansion rightfully reflects that.
It’s been nearly two years since researchers at Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy detailed how Providence is one of the worst school systems in the country.
That report shocked many. It showed 90 percent of students in the district were not proficient in math, and 80 percent were not proficient in English. Students were “completely disconnected from the environment around them,” with nearly all school buildings in disrepair. At one, the floors were crumbling and the water was brown.
While the state took control of the district in 2019 and released a plan to make the schools among the top 25 percent in the state, there’s an easy band-aid for the state: charter schools.
Charter schools are not the perfect solution, and they have their fair share of problems. They don’t solve some of the fundamental issues with Rhode Island’s education system, and are more of a band-aid than a fix for the problems.
But even as a band-aid, charter schools help fix some of the problems with Providence’s education system. That’s why McKee’s plan to veto the bill that would pause the creation of charter schools in Rhode Island for three years is appropriate.
On the aggregate, charter schools serve disadvantaged students. Fifteen percent of students who attend traditional public schools are Black, compared to 27 percent in charter schools. A similar but smaller skew exists for Latino students as well.
Charter schools also serve five percent more students from low-income households than traditional public schools. Fifty-seven percent of charter schools are located in cities, compared to only 25 percent of traditional public schools.
While charter schools tend to serve more students in low-income households, along with Black and Latino households, a 2015 Stanford study showed they also achieve significantly higher student success in math and reading than traditional public schools in urban areas.
All this goes to show that charter schools are better equipped to serve low-income, disadvantaged students than traditional public schools. As a partial solution to Providence’s education problems, charter schools can be effective.
The intent of the three-year is to “reexamine [the state’s] funding formula to ensure that students in traditional public schools aren’t left behind,” said state senator Maryellen Goodwin, who has advocated for the bill, to the Brown Daily Herald.
Goodwin argued that the current system drains “tens of millions of dollars from our traditional public schools to disproportionately support those in charters.” But when the state is failing to provide quality education through traditional public schools, alternative solutions are needed
While Goodwin recognizes the good charter schools can do, such a pause would only hurt disadvantaged students. Why stop a system that works better than traditional public schools?