A study released last week by the libertarian Cato Institute showed that students are transferring in unexpectedly large numbers from private schools to charter schools, but it framed the shift as a largely negative development. It's true, as the study reported, that such transfers cost states and taxpayers more; unlike private schools, charter schools get most of their funding from state tax dollars. Still, we see a lot to celebrate.
For years, urban public school systems such as the Los Angeles Unified School District have tried, with limited success, to lure private school families as a way of bringing in more enrollment and resources. The state funds public schools largely on the basis of how many students attend, so higher enrollment means more money for school districts. And private school parents tend to have more education and more money that they might use to help out at their schools, helping all students there. They might also become involved in lobbying for more funding for education, which would be good for public schools and charters alike.
The move to charter schools shows that private school parents can be persuaded to enter — or return to — the public system if the programs are attractive, the campuses safe and the staffs responsive. That's something public schools should take note of, and imitate.