Pros and Cons of Teaching at a Charter School
Teachers may be faced with difficult decisions when deciding whether to work at a charter school or a traditional public school. They might be pondering which school provides the best combination of opportunity and environment.
The final answer will depend on the teacher’s expectations, needs, and comfort level in the work environment. Before making a decision about becoming an educator, it is important to consider the pros and cons of charter schools.
Pro: A supportive environment
A charter school gives its teachers more control over the school’s operations than traditional public schools. Teachers and administrators can feel more at ease in a more intimate setting. They may have more control over their teaching methods and curriculum, while also having more input into school operations. Teachers feel more involved and ownership in their student’s success, which allows them to be closer to their students.
Con: Overwork potential
Openness to teacher input could lead to high demand for teacher hours. Caralee Adams writes an article for Scholastic.com. She cites Boston’s MATCH Charter School Public School, where teachers often put in 60-80 hours each week. This can be particularly challenging for charter schools that are just starting out. This can be a challenging schedule for young, ambitious teachers. Many may choose to quit the profession entirely or feel exhilarated by the work.
Pro: ‘At-will’ employment
The NYSED (New York State Education Department Charter School Office) states that charter school members can accept union membership. However, charter schools are not required to unionize. Most charter schools offer “at-will” employment. This condition allows the school administration to fire any teacher at will, but it also gives teachers the freedom to quit their position without being penalized or facing legal consequences. This may be attractive to young teachers who are still searching for their “home” or long-term career. Teachers who choose not to be members of a union will make more money by not paying union dues.
Con: A smaller salary
Although there are savings on union fees, they may not be enough to offset the fact that charter schools tend to offer lower salaries than traditional public-school teachers. Adams points out that teachers in charter schools tend to make 10 to 15% less than their counterparts elsewhere, regardless of how much experience they have. Charter schools often lack the financial resources necessary to offer strong benefits packages to make up for this inequity. They might not offer complete health insurance coverage or participate in a teacher retirement plan. This may be especially true given the long hours that charter schools require of their teachers.
Pro: There are many opportunities
Charter schools continue to look for the best teachers because of the high demand. Adams estimates that there are 300-400 new schools each year. This brings the total number of charter schools in America to 4,300. WYNC Schoolbook’s Beth Fertig reports that in 2012, more than 133,000 applicants vied for the 14,600 spots in New York City’s charter schools. Charter schools are a popular choice for new teachers looking to enter the teaching profession. Teachers may have many relocation and location options as the popularity of charter schools continues to grow across the U.S.
Con: Management and quality uncertainty
The relative autonomy that charter schools enjoy, which allows teachers to have so much direct student involvement, can also mean that the quality of management can differ greatly from one school to another. An incompetent board can make it difficult for teachers and parents to be satisfied with the school’s management. A lack of quality control and the above-mentioned compensation issues can result in high teacher turnover.