The Struggle Over Schools

IMAGE: Leo Garcia


Are Charter Schools Good for Public Education?


About 70 percent of the nation’s schools are traditional public schools. Public schools are paid for with everyone’s tax dollars and all kids can attend them. Many supporters of public education think that the plan to open more charter schools is an attack on public schools. A new documentary movie, “Waiting for ‘Superman’,” released this fall, tries to show that public education can be fixed by opening more charter schools and getting rid of bad teachers. The film has sparked more debate about charter schools and how to improve education in the United States.


Public Schools: Run by state and local government. Public schools
accept all students from the community. What is taught in public schools
is decided by the state. Students do not pay anything to attend.

Charter Schools: Receive money from the government, but are not
run by the government. They are run by private organizations or by forprofit
corporations that can have a say in what is taught and who attends.
Students do not pay anything to attend.

Private Schools: Run by individuals and organizations. The people
who run them have more freedom to teach what they want and to select
the students. Students pay a tuition fee to attend.


-often get donations (money) from wealthy people who can have a say in what is taught at the school and how it is run
-usually have teachers who are not in a union and can be paid less money than at public schools
-can have longer school days and a longer school year than a public school
-often select students by lottery after they fill out an application
-are usually in inner-city neighborhoods
-on average, perform no better than traditional public schools on student test scores
-sometimes share a building with a public school
-often select students by lottery after they fill out an application

IMAGE: Leo Garcia


On average, around the country state and local government spends about $950 less per student each year in school districts with more poor and minority students than in schools with more wealthy and white students. How do you think less money affects the quality of education?
(Source: The Education Trust)


Number of K-12 schools in the U.S.:
traditional public schools: 87,190
public charter schools: 3,560
private schools: 28,220
Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools: 180
(Source: U.S. Department of Education)



Julie Cavanagh, a public school teacher at PS 15 in Brooklyn, New York

“Sadly, this push [for charter schools] is actually hurting the great neighborhood schools we do have, just like at my school. We were forced to give up part of our building for a charter school, even though we are a great school and used all of our space. I think any school that serves children is a good thing, but I think some grown-ups are using charters to hurt public schools and that makes me very sad and worried for the future of public education.”


Ronnette Summers, a parent of a recent graduate of KIPP:STAR College Prep Charter School in Harlem, New York City

“Since attending KIPP:STAR, my daughter has grown into a mature, well rounded and caring young lady. KIPP is a lot of hard work. You are in school for ten hours a day and there are two hours of homework each night. However, there is also a lot of support at the school. I think that it is a great idea to set up more charter schools. I think it is important for parents and students to have choices. However, I don’t think that charter schools should replace traditional public schools.”

osiel picture

Osiel Gomez, a 4th grader at Whittier School, a public school in Chicago, Illinois

“I think charter schools are not good because not all kids can go there and charter schools are taking away money from my school. That is why we do not have [a] library and other things in our schools.”

VanBrunt & Perez

Jasmine J. VanBrunt, a parent of a graduate of KIPP: TECH VALLEY charter school in Albany, New York

IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT OBAMA, HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE EDUCATION? “I believe that it starts with a qualified, dedicated and concerned administration, then support staff and finally teachers. There would be no more tenure and both administrators and teachers should be switched to a merit-based pay system. The better your school or classroom, the more pay you get and vice versa. If it works for Fortune Five Hundred businesses, it would work for our educational system. Finally, I suggest longer school days and years.”

China Byon

China Byon, a 5th grade math and science teacher at Sankofa Academy, a public school in Oakland, California

“I would distribute resources more equitably amongst public schools, instead of trying to ‘fix’ the state of education without addressing the larger needs of all students.”


Reggie Mitchell, a student at Riverside Elementary, a public school in Orlando, Florida

IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT OBAMA, HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE EDUCATION? “I would make learning more fun. I would have PE most of the day, and then music and art.”


Leah Perkins, a parent of a student at KIPP: TECH VALLEY charter school in Albany, New York

“Before my son attended KIPP, he was not motivated to do well in school. Since my son has been at KIPP, he is happy and excited about learning. Even when things become difficult for him academically, his teachers are always there to support us. Public Schools, private schools, it really does not matter. What matters most to me is whether or not, my child and all children are receiving the best education possible.”


Amya Powell, a 5th grader at Sankofa Academy, a public school in Oakland, California

IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT OBAMA, HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE EDUCATION? “I would make sure everybody would eat breakfast before they come to school and I would want the students to volunteer in their community. I would also make sure the students understand how important their education is. He could do this by making surprise visits at schools. I would make sure the government gives less money to jails and more money to schools because kids are the future of our world.”


Chyim Bowen, a student at KIPP: TECH VALLEY charter school in Albany, New York

“If I got the chance to change education in America, I would add longer schooldays and raise standards for tests. In addition, I would make sure that every kid could get all of the help that they need.”

IMAGE: Lisa Goodman
IMAGE: Lisa Goodman

5 thoughts on “The Struggle Over Schools”

  1. I love the topic of the Public vs. Charter school article. However, I was very disappointed with the lack of diversity in the types of charter schools mentioned. The article focused almost primarily on KIPP schools and came across as a KIPP advertisement. I was a KIPP teacher in California and I found the organization to be very corrupt, disrespectful to parents and students of color, had high turn over rates with teachers, and was simply not developmentally appropriate to work students to the bone like the 10 hour day model and 2 hours of homework would suggest. Kids were sad and miserable, teachers were overworked and miserable, and there was a distinct lack of physical education and arts education. There are so many wonderful charter schools being designed countrywide, but I would never suggest that KIPP be the model to emulate.

    Nicole Solis

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