School Choice & Charters

About 15 Percent of Charter Schools Shut Down, Group Says

By Sean Cavanagh — December 21, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

About 15 percent of the nation’s charter schools close—and that’s not a bad thing, according to a newly released report, which argues that those shutdowns are proof that the system weeds out institutions that can’t cut it for one reason or another.

Of roughly 6,700 charter schools that have opened in the United States, 1,036 have closed since 1992, says a report unveiled today by the Center for Education Reform, in Washington.

In addition, about 500 other charter schools opened, but were consolidated back into their school districts—or received charter status, but were unable to open or decided not to do so, the report estimates.

The center, which advocates for charters and school choice, bills its report, “The State of Charter Schools,” as the “first-ever national analysis” of the charters that have closed shop over the past two decades.

It says that the numbers should dispel a few myths: that poor-performing or otherwise inept charter schools are allowed to remain open indefinitely, and that the vast majority of charters are poor-quality. In fact, weak charters regularly close their doors, which, in the center’s view, shows that they’re held to high standards—in many cases, higher than traditional public schools.

"[N]ot only do charters deliver on student achievement, but a substantial percentage of charter schools are closed from year to year for reasons that any school should be closed,” the report states. “Far from condemnation, these data points suggest a movement that has been amenable to course correction and closure since its inception.”

So why do charter schools close?

The greatest portion of them, 41.7 percent, go under for financial reasons, the center found. Mismanagement—which could be misspending, failure to provide adequate programs or materials, or an overall lack of accountability—is the next most likely reason, at 24 percent, followed by academic problems, at 18.6 percent.

Of the rest, 4.6 percent close because of problems with their facilities. “District obstacles” are another barrier, at 6.3 percent. The report maintains that in those cases, school systems may saddle charters with unrealistic paperwork or regulatory burdens or treat them with outright hostility.

While there are examples of charters that close because of conflicts with local school boards, the report says, many have closed because of their own shortcomings, such as a lack of oversight by authorizers.

The center’s favored method for holding charters to account is to have strong state laws that have “multiple, independent authorizers” of charters to provide oversight and which are empowered to close poor schools. States with multiple authorizers are home to nearly 80 percent of the nation’s 5,400 charters, according to the report, authored by the center’s vice president of research, Alison Consoletti.

School districts and state departments of education are poorly equipped to serve as authorizers, as the center sees it, because charter duty typically is a secondary duty, handled by staff who are overwhelmed with other responsibilities.

“Performance-based accountability is the cornerstone of charter schools,” the report says.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty