Pennsylvania’s charter school law dates back to 1997 which means we now have a quarter century of evidence to consider how well charter schools educate students. At a macro level, brick and mortar charter schools suffer from many of the same structural challenges as district-run schools. While charter schools have long been an important educational option for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students, their promise is unfulfilled because of funding and other structural barriers. As a result, charter schools have been unable to deliver, especially for Black and Hispanic students. Of the approximately 34,000 Black and Hispanic students who took the PSSAs in 2019, over 22,000 failed in English and 29,000 failed in math.
To be sure, Black and Hispanic students are also failing in traditional public schools and more needs to be done to ensure student success in both charter and district-run schools. However, it is a false narrative to suggest that charter schools are a refuge from failing public schools when over half of children of color and low-income charter school students are failing in English and more than three out of four are failing in math.