Educating our Children: Students Switching to Charter Schools

From experimental to mainstream, more and more students are switching from conventional public schools to charters.

Last year, the publicly funded, privately run schools grew almost 10 percent nationwide to more than 1.7 million students, as parents watched many urban schools lose students and money, while labor rules and pension costs prevented reforms.

California leads the nation with almost 1,000 campuses and an estimated 350,000 students.

According to the National Alliance of Charter Schools, the Los Angeles Unified School district is at the top, where more than 68,000 children, or one out of every 10 students, are enrolled at charters.

Meghan McCardle, a former L.A.U.S.D. teacher says one reason for the success of charter schools is that they're able to make changes and hold everyone accountable.

"I think charter schools are more successful right now than public schools because they are taking risk, being innovative in what they are doing and they are making changes to the current system, " said McCardle, an English teacher with the Animo Pat Brown Green Dot charter school.

"High expectations, accountability, and collaboration... the administrators don't just have high expectations for the students, they also set high expectations for the teachers," she said.

Educators hope those expectations close the so-called achievement gap between minority and white students. For example, the high school graduation rate at L.A.U.S.D is about 50 percent, compared to 80 percent at Green Dot charters.

"We actually send five to ten times more students to college than the district does, so the data is overwhelming. It's not even a close call," said Marco Petruzzi, the CEO of Green Dot Charter Schools.

Some charters are doing more with less money. The Center for Education reform finds that charters receive about $6,500 per pupil, compared with almost $11,000 for public schools.

"We receive less funding than a traditional high school, " said Joshua Hartford, principal at Animo Pat Brown Charter school.

"But I think in a larger scheme, California can't afford to keep paying for high schools that are failing kids. We're training the next job force, we're training the next leadership force and schools that work are the best investment for California taxpayers, " said Hartford.

William La Jeunesse joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in March 1998 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.