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Monday, October 25, 2021

Stephen L. Carter: An unexpected reason to support charter schools

Whether the growing Democratic opposition to charter schools will lead to electoral problems is an open question, but it seems obvious: over time and the accumulation of evidence, the party’s position seems not only brutal but absurd.

The last reason? Attending a charter school contributes to a cherished liberal goal: high voter turnout.

This is the conclusion of a new article by economists Sarah Cohods and James J. Feigenbaum. Girls (not boys) who attend charter schools are significantly more likely to vote in the first election after they turn 18. Parents’ voting level also rises sharply after their children are accepted.

Either way, this should be considered a pure (and unexpected) benefit of charter schools. Nevertheless, the democratic opposition to them remains unshakable.

Charter schools were once considered a sensible compromise between those who advocated giving poor parents money to buy private education for their children, and those who opposed any government-funded alternative to public schools. Until recently, as President Barack Obama, the Democrats strongly supported them. But during Donald Trump’s years in the White House, when charter expansion became a key Republican priority, Democratic support has fallen.

Oh no. Not really.

What actually happened was that support among white Democratic voters dropped to 26%.

At the same time, among black and Latin American Democratic voters, a strong majority supports the charter.

The party’s progressive wing has largely abandoned a once decisive compromise and spent the summer fighting to cut federal funding for the charters.

However, years of research confirm the relative success on most indicators of better-designed charters: when compared to those who are not adopted, participants tend to score higher on standardized tests, are more likely to graduate and are more likely to attend school. … college. Recent research shows that participants’ social skills are improving as well. They are less likely than their peers to commit crimes, use drugs, or become pregnant while in school.

These are all great reasons for those looking to care for those who leave behind to support charter schools.

This latest study confirms many of these findings, but the most important findings relate to franchises.

Previous work showed that charter school students were more likely to vote, but these results were obtained in schools that selected their students and emphasized civic duty in the curriculum. An article examining six elections between 2008 and 2018 finds that voting is more likely even when a school chooses its students through a lottery.

A study published last month had no impact on enrollment. Students in charter and other public schools enroll at similar rates.

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But turnout is another matter. According to the study, as long as they register, charter students vote 17% more often.
Amazingly, this effect is entirely provided by female students. The most interesting explanation is that girls who attend charters are more likely than boys to improve their non-cognitive skills. In particular, girls, but not boys, show higher attendance and a higher likelihood of taking the SAT. The results show that voting behavior is determined not simply by education, but by the acquisition of non-cognitive skills within this education; and that for at least some students, charters improve those skills. Other subgroups, such as those receiving subsidized meals and those receiving special education, were also more likely to vote.

These are all great reasons to increase support for charters, especially as recent work shows that the best of them can replicate their success. And even if it is true that the presence of charter schools slightly increases racial segregation, some data show that the effect disappears in large metropolitan areas.

Another progressive concern is that the curriculum of many charter schools could become decidedly conservative. This does not upset me, I have long been of the opinion that public schools exist to help parents raise and educate their children. Democracy thrives on diversity of opinion. The fact that I can not send my children to a particular school is not an argument against the school.

And one thing to keep in mind is that, aside from a veritable mountain of measurable metrics, a significant number of parents choose charters that they believe will improve the atmosphere. For example, fewer gangs; less drug use; even just better behavior overall.

Wealthy parents take for granted their ability to choose the environment in which their children will live. Charters, at the very least, offer poorer parents a faint echo of the choices that higher incomes can afford.

So, to summarize, charters improve academic performance and non-cognitive skills in students. They are strongly supported by black and Latin American Democrats. And charter attendance increases voter turnout.

Add it all up and progressives run out of good reasons to oppose charter schools.

Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Among his novels is The Emperor of Ocean Park, and his most recent popular science book is The Invisible Man: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Destroyed America’s Most Powerful Gangster.

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