Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Top US Education Official Wants to Lift Cap on Charter Schools

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Top US Education Official Wants to Lift Cap on Charter Schools

Article excerpt

Education Secretary John King jumped into the charter school debate Wednesday to praise the schools and call for a lift of the "arbitrary caps" on the institutions.

The publicly-funded, privately-operated schools have become an increasingly contentious and partisan issue. Supporters argue that they provide families, especially those in urban areas, with increased choices when traditional public schools fail. Opponents cite cases of mismanagement and claim that the schools drain funds from the non-charter public school system. On Nov. 8, voters in Massachusetts will confront the issue first hand with a ballot question regarding the expansion of charter schools in their state. It's the only state with a charter school ballot initiative this year.

Dr. King said the United States is "fortunate, I think, as a country, to have some high-performing charters that are doing a great job providing great opportunities to students -- charters that are helping students not only perform at higher levels academically, but go on to college at much higher rates" than students at some neighborhood public schools.

"That's good," he added. "We should have more schools like that, and I think any arbitrary cap on that growth of high-performing charters is a mistake."

Those views put King at odds with Democrats and the NAACP, who have called for stronger oversight and criticized schools for expelling some of the more difficult students.

While charter schools once received bipartisan support, new revelations about the privately managed institutions have caused Democrats and Republicans to split over the issue. Donald Trump proposed a $20 billion school choice program in September that would focus largely on a voucher-based system. Conversely, Hillary Clinton's support of charters has waned.

In Massachusetts, voters have become increasingly divided over a ballot question that, if passed, would allow the state to create 12 new charter schools each year. Currently, the measure stands to fail by around 11 points, according to a poll, with 64 percent of Democrats opposing it. …

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