2,315 Charter Schools Failed And Closed In 11 Years

Although they have been around for more than 30 years, and although they are frequently touted as being superior to public schools, the U.S Department of Education reports that between 2010-11 and 2021-22, an 11-year period, 2,315 charter schools failed and closed in the U.S.

That is a huge number of school closures in a short time frame. By any measure, it is hard to call such a phenomenon “successful.”

And this figure probably does not capture the real number of charter schools that have failed and closed over the years, leaving thousands of parents, students, teachers, education support staff, and principals violated and out in the cold.

In 2024, hundreds more charter schools will fail and close, leaving many more people feeling angry and disillusioned. The same will happen in 2025 as well, further tarnishing the reputation of charter schools.

Charter school promoters casually assert that such failure and closure are great and fantastic. “Free market” failure is supposedly an unassailable timeless virtue even if it effectively disrupts, violates, and harms thousands of people every year for completely avoidable reasons. What’s more, there is apparently no alternative to this outdated set-up. Disorder, volatility, and leaving people high and dry are considered inevitable and the “best of all worlds.”

In this obsolete outlook, instability and chaos are misequated with “innovation” and “improvement.” “Failure” becomes “success” and disruption and anarchy become “progress.” Reality is turned upside down in this view which renders everything in a detached and abstract way, as if real people and real injury are not involved when charter schools close every week (often abruptly and mid-year), forcing many to scramble stressfully to find a new school. Such a perspective has no conception of an education system that is stable, dependable, continuous, and consciously directed by a public authority worthy of the name.

In 2023, proponents of “free market” education still see everything from the lens of a dog-eat-dog world. They maintain that everyone has to fend-for-themselves like an animal even though it is possible to easily meet the needs of all humans many times over without disruption and chaos. Social Darwinism is prioritized over everything else in this scheme. A society fit for all is avoided at all costs, while a society based on outdated hierarchies, inequalities, and privileges is perpetuated.

Today, approximately 3.7 million youth are enrolled in about 7,800 charter schools across the country while 45 million students attend the nation’s 100,000 public schools, which have been around for more than 150 years.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.