Brittany Wagner

What do you do when you’re fed up with your city’s public school system?

Most people might attend a school board meeting, but if you’re Eli and Edyth Broad and you’re fed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District, you would come up with a $490 million dollar plan to double the number of charter schools, challenge employee unions and charter school critics, and create 130,000 new quality seats by 2023.

The Broad Foundation plans to open 260 new charter schools over a 7-year period. A 44-page memo describing their plan outlines the growing demand for high-performing charters, describes teacher and school leader recruitment strategies, and calls for more charitable support for the new charters. L.A. Unified already has a large number of charter schools (they educate about 16% of the district’s total enrollment), but if everything goes as planned charter schools will reach 50 percent market share.

The LA Times reported:

Charters have proved popular with parents. The expansion campaign is shaping up to be something of a referendum on L.A. Unified's performance. The memo repeatedly criticizes the district for failing to prepare students for college and careers, robbing Los Angeles of a better-trained, smarter workforce.

"The opportunity is ripe for a significant expansion of high-quality charter schools in Los Angeles," the memo states. "Thanks to the strength of its charter leaders and teachers, as well as its widespread civic and philanthropic support, Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to create the largest, highest-performing charter sector in the nation. Such an exemplar would serve as a model for all large cities to follow."

In Missouri, only students in St. Louis and Kansas City currently have access to public charter school options. In 2014, public charter schools enrolled 29 percent and 42 percent of all public school students in Saint Louis and Kansas City, respectively. Still, a demand for more quality public options exists in both cities.

Time will tell if something like the Broad plan would be right for Missouri. Until then, here are some fixes to our current charter system, which require a little less heavy lifting:

(1)   Make it easier for charter schools to acquire abandoned buildings.

(2)   Allow charter schools to open statewide

(3)   Provide equitable funding for public charter school students.

(4)   Fast-track the process for quality charter school replication.

All four of these would cost a lot less than $490 million, and would do a world of good for students in Missouri.

About the Author

Brittany Wagner
Education Policy Research Assistant

Brittany Wagner was an education policy research assistant at the Show-Me Institute.