Charter school ‘myths and beliefs’: US-style inequality?


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Charter schools exacerbate inequality and threaten public education, claims one educator. The evidence on student performance, according to experts, appears mixed.

“Myths and beliefs” are driving support for the expansion of charter schools, according to one education advocate. He warns the increasing the spread of independent schools will exacerbate inequality and stoke a continuing decline in educational performance.

Charter schools, which operate in various forms in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden and New Zealand, are primarily government funded, unable to charge student fees and usually have open enrolment policies. In many places they are run by charities or groups of parents, and in the US and Sweden they are open to for-profit operators too.

Western Australia is rolling out independent school model, similar to that in place across Victoria for around 20 years, which incorporates some features similar to charter schools. Independent public schools are run by boards, usually consisting of parents, community members and business representatives, and have more power to choose teachers — reform the Abbott government has promised funding to help spread to other states.

But there are key differences between charter schools and independent public schools: charter schools can be owned and run by an organisation, whereas independent public schools cannot; as with other government schools, independent public schools are unable to fire teachers they don’t want; and charter schools tend to be new institutions, while Australian independent public schools have converted from regular public schools.

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