Study: Charter School Supporters Have Better Arguments

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A new report released from researchers at Michigan State University has found arguments offered by charter school supporters to be more effective than those made by opponents.

The study, co-authored by MSU political scientists Sarah Reckhow and Matt Grossman, looked into survey results from over 1,000 participants.  Grossman said the findings suggest that opponents to charter schools may want to find new arguments in order to make their point of view heard.

“The main thing we found is the argument opponents are making is (against) privatization,” Grossman said. “That doesn’t resonate with citizens, but one of the main arguments of proponents is (charter schools) are non-unionized and allegedly more flexible, and that does resonate.”

Meanwhile, supporters tend to argue that most teachers at charter schools are not unionized, an argument that has given their efforts support.

The number of charter schools across the nation has more than doubled to reach around 6,400 schools over the last decade.  Public School Review found Michigan to be home to 307 such schools, serving over 118,000 students, writes Kyle Feldscher for Michigan Live.

The study split participants into four groups, according to Reckhow.  One remained a control group while the other three were offered facts prior to being asked questions in an effort to see how the facts influenced their responses.

One group was told that over 80% of charter schools are operated by for-profit companies.  A second group was told that over 80% of charter schools employ non-union teachers.  The third group was told that over 80% of charter schools were authorized by universities.

Reckhow said that the majority of people who were opposed to charter schools already knew the information presented to them. Those who were not aware of the facts seemed to be OK with for-profit companies running charter schools, but not so much with the idea of less unionization, reports Rebecca Klein for The Huffington Post.

“The union one is very persuasive to a set of people who perhaps didn’t know that previously about charter schools, and it increases their support,” she said, adding that it tends to go along with the general sentiment of conservatives.

The co-authors would like to research the effects of how an apparent lack of transparency in the charter school authorization process affects public opinion.

Reckhow said it was difficult to keep track of how charter schools open, who is making the decisions, who operates the schools and who is in charge of closing the school should it be found to be poorly performing.

“All this is happening in ways that are much less transparent than with a public school and a local school board,” she said.