In the 25 years since Minnesota passed the first charter school law, these publicly funded but privately operated schools have become a highly sought-after alternative to traditional public education, particularly for underserved students in urban areas. Between 2004 and 2014 alone, charter school enrollment increased from less than 1 million to 2.5 million students. Many charter schools boast of high test scores, strict academic expectations, and high graduation rates, and for some, their growth is evidence of their success. But have these schools lived up to their promise? Opponents argue that charters, which are subject to fewer regulations and less oversight, lack accountability, take much-needed resources from public schools, and pick and choose their student body. Are charter schools overrated?
Jeanne Allen is the pioneering visionary at the forefront of school choice success stories through the nation. Jeanne founded the Center for Education Reform (CER) in 1993 and remains its CEO. She is absolutely unyielding in her mission to revolutionize education, and speaks with a resonant voice on behalf of every child, regardless of their zip code. Jeanne sees innovation as the foundation of all education reform. Jeanne served at the Department of Education during the Reagan administration and later served at the Heritage Foundation, where she developed the organization's education policy program and also launched Town Hall, one of the earliest online social networks. She is an acclaimed author, media staple, and education thought leader who accelerates opportunities for the underserved. Jeanne has been a trusted advisor to presidents, governors, and lawmakers, and continues to provide valuable counsel to policymakers, philanthropists, and her colleagues in education.
Julian Vasquez Heilig
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning teacher, researcher, and blogger. He is currently a professor of educational leadership and policy studies and the director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University, Sacramento. He is also a founding board member of the Network for Public Education. His work has been cited by the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, USAToday, Education Week, Huffington Post and other print and electronic media outlets. He has appeared on local and national radio and TV including PBS, NBC, NPR, Univision, Al Jazeera and MSNBC and blogs at Cloaking Inequity.
Gary Miron is Professor in Evaluation, Measurement, and Research at Western Michigan University. He has extensive experience evaluating school reforms and education policies in the United States and Europe. Miron has directed more than 60 evaluations and research studies that have been funded with grants and contracts from state, federal, and international agencies as well as private foundations. He has been hired by state education agencies to undertake nine comprehensive evaluations of charter school reforms. For the U.S. Department of Education, he led a study on the correlates of success in American charter schools. In addition to his evaluations of charter schools, Miron has provided technical assistance and training for charter schools in five states. In recent years, his research has focused on the private education management organizations as well as the performance of virtual and blended learning schools.
Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he works on education policy issues including choice in public and private schools, regulatory development and implementation of K-12 laws, the role of for-profit institutions in education, prison education and reentry, rural education, and the role of community colleges and historically black colleges and universities in adult advancement. Robinson served as commissioner of education for the state of Florida and secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. As president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, Robinson worked to ensure that children in low-income and working-class black families in several states and the District of Columbia were given the opportunity to attend good schools. Throughout his career he has evaluated the effects of reform initiatives on parental choice and student achievement and advocated for laws to improve delivery of teaching and learning.