A new national poll probed voters' views of charters, plus biggest problems facing public education.
Voters want greater oversight for charter schools and more assurance that charters — independently run but publicly funded schools — won’t hurt other public schools by drawing students away, a new national poll suggests.
Two education policy groups that are generally skeptical of charters — In the Public Interest and the Center for Popular Democracy — conducted the poll, which involved interviews with 1,000 randomly selected registered voters from across the country.
They found that while the public is mostly supportive of charter schools, most voters surveyed said they wanted better financial auditing and oversight. Though nearly one in three respondents said they knew nothing about charter schools, 62 percent said they would prefer to decrease or keep the same number of charters in their area.
A lack of choice about where to send children to school wasn’t a major issue among the voters interviewed — only about 10 percent listed that as a top concern.
The top areas of concern for those surveyed were lack of parental involvement, too much focus on standardized tests and large class sizes.
The voters surveyed overwhelmingly supported audits of charter schools’ finances to detect fraud or waste, and said that before a charter school opens, its impact on nearby public schools should be studied.
The former is already happening in Washington state, where the charter school commission has increased its oversight of the state’s lone charter following financial and organizational problems. The commission has added more financial reporting to its charter application process and has ordered a state audit into the school’s finances.
This year, lawmakers in six states considered bills to limit the number of charter schools in their states, and nine states proposed increasing charter-school transparency and adding oversight, according to Kyle Serrette, director of education at the Center for Popular Democracy.
In Washington, Sen. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, proposed a bill that would mandate performance audits for charters and allow no more than three charter schools to open simultaneously in any single school district. The bill died in committee.
You can dig into more of the poll’s results here.