FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Somebody ran the data and determined that traditional public schools in Broward County, Florida might have academically outperformed the two charter schools in the community.

you win diceThat conclusion was reached based on the fact that a lot of test scores were pretty even in all the schools, and the public schools have a much higher concentration of low income students.

Good for the public schools. They are expected to do a good job of educating their students, and apparently they do.

But there’s no way that fact should shed any sort of negative light on the charter schools.

While we have no way of knowing, we’re willing to bet that the mere presence of the charter schools has resulted in higher academic outcomes at the public schools.

Before charters came along in many communities across the U.S., most families were forced to send their children to traditional public schools. There was no competition for students and the state funding attached to each of them, so there was no pressure on traditional schools to push for the best possible academic outcomes.

We would be interested in comparing test scores for Broward County public school students before and after the advent of charter schools.

There’s also the simple but crucial matter of school choice. Thousands of Broward County parents have their children on waiting lists to get into the charters. They should continue to have that right.

Charter schools are more than just temporary shelters for students in communities with bad traditional schools. They should be permanent alternatives, allowing parents more opportunities to find schools and/or academic programs that fit their children’s needs.

As the article noted, some parents may prefer charter schools for many different reasons – the use of uniforms, stricter discipline, safer campuses, smaller classrooms or the lack of distracting haggling over union employee contracts.

There’s no doubt that charters, on the average, offer a different type of instruction than traditional schools, and that should be available to as many families as possible.

As for the inordinate number of low-income students in Broward County’s traditional public schools, as opposed to the charter schools, there’s not much to say. The charters are filled through lotteries that parents voluntarily enter.

As the article states, “The data shows that parents who enter the lottery clearly represent higher socioeconomic status than non-participants.” The article goes on to ask whether charter school enrollment should be forcibly altered to make sure that the demographics mirror the surrounding community.

That might involve the forced assignment of some traditional school students to charter schools, whether their parents want it or not. It would also force some charter kids back into traditional schools, almost certainly against their parents’ wishes.

That would entirely defeat the purpose of school choice. If more low-income parents want their kids in charter schools, all they have to do is enter the lottery and take their chances, like everyone else.

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