Concerns remain about whether or not charter schools will actually havea positive impact on the broader public education system. Advocatesbelieve that charter schools will act as a catalyst for systemwide educational improvement by serving as models of innovation and byintroducing competition into the education marketplace. Two questions,however, remain unresolved. First, are the innovative educationalstrategies employed by charter schools being documented and transmittedto other schools? Second, are charter schools and other districtschools in a fair and equitable competition?
Although it has been limited, charter schools haveinitiated some broader changes throughout local districts. InMinnesota, a district chose to include a Montessori school as a districtoption instead of granting the school charter status. In California, asmall number of sponsoring districts reported liberalizing schoolrestructuring policies as a result of charter schools. In addition, aquarter of the districts were encouraging other schools to adopt some ofthe practices being used in charter schools (Dianda & Corwin, 1994).
The effects of particular charter school provisions and policies clearlyrepresent a valuable source of information for all schools. Trackingand monitoring policy waivers, particularly in states like Coloradowhere exemptions are granted on a rule-by-rule basis, could provideimportant information about how policies can be successfully modifiedfor other public schools (Huston et al., 1995). Few states, however,have established guidelines for monitoring whether or not specificcharter school provisions are having a positive effect. Moreover,innovative teaching and learning strategies could also prove useful tomore traditional public schools. Without careful collection anddissemination, the impact of charter schools on more traditional publicschools could remain marginal.
While advocates insist that charter schools will introducebadly needed market incentives into a public system that has, thus far,not had to compete for students, some critics question whether charterschools and other public schools are competing on a level playing field.
While some charter schools retain the right to establish admissionscriteria, traditional public schools have few choices about whichstudents they serve. Moreover, charter schools, by their very nature,are able to circumvent rules and regulations concerning the provision ofservices (i.e., school lunches, transportation) that other publicschools cannot. The ability to target specific student populations andchoose the services they will provide for these students could placecharter schools at a distinct advantage over more traditional publicschools that must provide a large array of services to meet the needs ofa diverse student population. Finally, many charter school may retainan advantage by relying on their host district for a number ofadministrative services. As a result, charters are able to cut costsand redirect critical resources into curriculum and instruction in waysthat traditional schools cannot (Huston et al., 1995).
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