Charter School Myths and Facts

By Mavuto Kalulu

Many people have misconceptions about charter schools, the parents that choose them, and the children that attend them. Below are just a few of the common charter school myths along with the facts and sources that address them.

Myth: Charter schools perform worse than traditional public schools
Fact: Open-enrollment charter schools perform significantly better in literacy and no worse in math.
Explanation: The latest scientific evaluation of charter schools in Arkansas by the Office for Education Reform revealed that overall, charter schools did not produce statistically significant impact in math outcomes. However, open-enrollment charter school performed better in literacy.
Source: Arkansas Department of Education, Charter School Evaluation Report, 2011-2012. By Gary W. Ritter, Patrick J. Wolf and Leesa Foreman, June 2015.

Myth: Charter schools employ less qualified teachers.
Fact: Charter schools evaluate teachers using varied standards – some very similar to public school qualifications, some different.
Explanation: Research shows that traditional teacher certification does not necessarily mean teacher effectiveness. In a forthcoming paper for the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE), James Shuls finds no significant difference in teaching effectiveness between those who pass and those who fail Praxis I exams in Arkansas. Charter schools can hire other teachers with content area expertise who may not have traditional teacher certification.
Source: Economics of Education Review, Volume 27 (2008), Pages 615-631. By Thomas J. Kane, Jonah E. Rockoff and Douglas O. Staiger.

Myth: Charter schools get more money than traditional public schools.
Fact: Charter schools spend about $1,000 less per pupil than traditional public schools.
Explanation: In 2014-2015, the actual average per pupil expenditure for received by open-enrollment charter schools was $8,612 compared with $9,642.65. This means that when a student leaves a traditional public school, only a portion of the student’s funding follows her to the charter school.
Source: Arkansas Department of Education Data Center, Statewide Information Systems Report, 2015-2016.
Note: The reason we emphasize open-enrollment charter school here is that the funding data is provided at district level and conversion charter schools are part of the traditional school districts.

Myth: Charter schools mostly enroll white children
Fact: Charter schools enroll a larger share of minorities than public schools
Explanation: Charter schools are providing an alternative learning environment for minorities in Arkansas. In 2015-2016 school year, minorities comprise 51% of the students enrolled in charter schools while traditional public schools enrolled 37% minorities.
Source: Arkansas Department of Education Data Center, Statewide Information Systems Report, 2015-2016.

Myth: Public schools can’t compete with charter schools
Fact: Research shows that public schools improve because of competition
Explanation: No research has shown charter schools cause traditional public schools to close. Rather some research shows that public schools improve because of competition. Because funding follows the student to the school the parents enroll her, a healthy competition is created among schools to perform better.
Source: Journal of Urban Economics, Volume 64 (2008), Pages 123-143. By Kevin Booker, Scott M. Gilpatric, Timothy Gronberg and Dennis Jansen

For more information, please contact ACRE Policy Analyst Mavuto Kalulu at