Next steps logo

This week in school choice: Stop generalizing about charter schools

This week, Nat Malkus of the American Enterprise Institute examined the national debate over charter schools:

These political contests hinge on two competing narratives about what charters are and who they serve. Opponents often paint charters as public-privates that skirt public accountability and select the most advantaged students for their schools. Clinton played to that perspective last year, saying, “most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.” Supporters often view charters as hope-filled alternatives to traditional public schools for historically disadvantaged students. As Democrats for Education Reform President Shavar Jefferies put it, “In communities of color throughout our country, public charter schools are providing pathways to college and careers that previously were not available.”

And we continued to see new reasons why monolithic national narratives about charter schools make little sense:

Attempts to nationalize the charter school debate inevitably distort the picture of a movement that varies state by state, community by community, and school by school. And they obscure real lessons about how to serve children better under the new definition of public education.


Another legal victory for Florida tax credit scholarships (but the case is not over yet).

Pushing back against criticism of his group, Shavar Jeffries of Democrats for Education Reform makes a vital point about power:

Even more, parental choice is, in fact, the opposite of external appropriation of community decision-making. Parental choice is black empowerment embodied. No longer will families of color accede to a policy regime in which local politicians dictate which schools serve their children. In fact, those who support the amended platform language, which undercuts parent choice, are the ones who seek to impose their ideology on black folk by seeking to substitute their choices about school options in place of the decisions of individual black parents.

I am one of those parents who chose a charter school and my choice was deeply personal, and practical.”

“Splintered” oversight may undermine California charter schools.

The majority of New York parents seem to favor charter schools for their own children.

Michelle King, L.A.’s school district superintendent, wants to expand access to her district’s school choice programs.

Louisiana Superintendent John White has a plan to keep students from being kicked off his state’s voucher program. School choice advocates are relieved, and say the budget cuts that created the problem were misguided.

Louisiana Federation for Children President Ann Duplessis says Superintendent White’s proposal provides a viable solution for hundreds of families whose scholarship awards were not honored after Governor John Bel Edwards chose not to fully fund the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

“This is what happens when you try to balance a budget on the backs of children,” Duplessis said. “Cutting this program does not save the state money. It merely shifts the expense of educating a child from a school of their parents’ choice into a traditional school that’s currently not serving that child.”

Research notes:

Tweets of the Week

This Week in School Choice is our weekly compendium of news and notes from around the country. Sign up to get it in your inbox, and send tips, feedback or pushback to tpillow[at]sufs[dot]org.

Avatar photo

BY Travis Pillow

Travis Pillow is Director of Thought Leadership at Step Up For Students and editor of NextSteps. He lives in Sanford, Fla. with his wife and two children. A former Tallahassee statehouse reporter, he most recently worked at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at Arizona State University, where he studied community-led learning innovation and school systems' responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. He can be reached at tpillow (at)