Toolkit: School Privatization ExplainedPublished by Darcie Cimarusti
The School Privatization Explained Toolkit was first created in 2017 to alert the general public regarding the various forms that privatization takes and the consequences associated with each. We’ve updated the toolkit to ensure the information is up-to-date. This toolkit presents evidence of what we already know about charters, vouchers and other forms of privatization. It is organized around key questions, providing answers in clear language to the questions we at NPE are most often asked.
Each dropdown below contains a link to a pdf that we hope you will read, share and download.
No. Charter schools are private entities that receive taxpayer money to operate privately controlled schools that do not have the same rules and responsibilities as public schools.
No. Charter schools were intended to be centers of education experimentation and innovation, but they generally neither invent new teaching methods nor develop and spread new education practices. They’re businesses first, and schools second.
No. Charter schools that fail to perform as expected are rarely held accountable. In theory, if a charter school does not meet its stated goals or if academic results are below stated expectations, the charter sponsor can revoke its charter or refuse to renew it, and families will withdraw their children from the school. This theory doesn’t work in reality.
Yes. Although charter schools are legally open to all students, and most use lotteries to choose the students they enroll in, charter schools, like other businesses, have built-in incentives to attract and enroll populations of customers that serve the schools’ best self-interests.
No. The charter school sector does not get better academic results than public schools and often performs worse. Charters sometimes appear to do better because they engage in policies and practices that control the types of students they choose to serve.
No. Online charter schools, also called cyber schools and virtual schools, are a poor choice for students almost every time. They’re mostly a way for for-profit education operators to cash in by exploiting the most vulnerable families in the public education system.
Yes. Many charter schools are structured and operate in ways that allow individuals and corporations to skim money without returning any benefit to students and taxpayers. Even charters labeled “nonprofit” are often run to create profit from public tax dollars via real estate deals, related party transactions and for-profit management.
Yes. The U.S. Department of Education Charter School Program (CSP) has drifted from its original mission to give seed money to states to support the opening of innovative charter schools. It has instead become a slush fund for charter school chains and their advocacy groups.
Vouchers and Voucher-like Schemes
No. Vouchers, often misleadingly called “scholarships,” divert tax dollars meant for public education to private schools that are not accountable to the public and generally do not serve the interests of struggling, low-income students.
Yes. Like vouchers, these programs redirect public money for educating all children to private schools, including religion-based schools. Diverting funds from public schools harms our children’s education because schools are forced to respond to the lost money by cutting staff and programs.
No. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are another voucher-like scheme that redirects public money for educating all children to private, unaccountable education businesses, homeschools, and religious institutions. Just like vouchers, ESA’s bleed public schools of essential funds and do little to improve education options for families.
Charters and Vouchers
Yes. Charter schools, vouchers, and other “choice” options redirect public money to privately operated education enterprises, some of which operate for profit. That harms your public schools by siphoning off students, resources, and funding and reducing the ability of public schools to serve the full range of student needs and interests.
Yes. Charter schools and voucher programs tend to worsen the racial and economic segregation in our education system.
No. Charter schools increase education costs to taxpayers because they have become a parallel school system that drains money from what’s available to serve all students. School voucher programs can add extra layers of administrative costs and make education funds less transparent and accountable. The result of both programs is more money going to more service providers instead of directly to students and classrooms.
No. Charter schools, vouchers, and other choice options increase the segregation of students. This results in separate, unequal schools that isolate Black and Latinx students, English language learners, and students with disabilities in schools with fewer resources and less experienced teachers. Segregation robs all children of the benefits of learning with others who have different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Other Forms of Privatization
Yes. So-called innovation schools are given the “flexibility” of charters to waive regulations, labor agreements, and statutory requirements. Nonprofit or for-profit management companies often operate them.
No. These alternatives to public schools take education out of the public sector and will be used to redirect public funding for schools to private businesses and entrepreneurs that will increase inequality in the system.