Prior to COVID-19 upending American education, some state legislatures around the country considered moratoriums or “pauses” on public charter schools; while others, like in California, Illinois, and New Jersey, pushed to stop the growth of these public schools.
There are a number of levers to pull, including a federal stimulus plan for all public schools, focusing on social-emotional wellness, increasing learning time for students, considering new ways of organizing students and learning, and implementing wide-scale tutoring and mentoring. Given the enormity of the challenges schools face, no thoughtful solution should be off the table.
States and communities should also prioritize giving more students more access to our very best public schools. The very best schools—be they traditional public schools or public charter schools—should be encouraged to provide more seats for students. Schools like Ednovate and Equitas Academy in Los Angeles, California, DC Bilingual and Washington Latin in the District of Columbia, and national networks like KIPP.
For charter schools, that means expanding and replicating instead of blunting the growth of these schools.
Our best public charter schools are a critical part of the solution in addressing student learning and wellness. Public charter schools are inherently flexible, creative, and responsive—students and communities need that more than ever. Children who are academically behind and attend high-quality public charter schools can catch up to their peers in as little as one semester or one year, according to research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
High-quality schools, simply put, close achievement gaps.
Moratoriums, meanwhile, are a distraction. Our priority ought to be to open any public school that is high-quality and has a proven track record of educating students, especially students furthest from opportunity.
Communities should also remove existing charter school caps. In New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and Maine, communities are close to approaching the existing limit on the number of public charter schools that can operate. We should ask why arbitrary caps are a good idea especially when emerging from a crisis.
Naysayers will still call for a cap on charter schools, the so-called moratorium, because that was the political fight before COVID-19. But these times require all of us to put aside old battles and prioritize student learning and wellness.
That means more students learning in the very best schools, no matter the type of public school.
Ebony Lee is a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund. She leverages her philanthropic and government experience to oversee work in policy, communications and advocacy. Previously, she led policy and programs at the U.S. Department of Education.
Prior to joining CSGF, Ebony served as the deputy chief of staff for policy at the U.S. Department of ...