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Neglected Issues: How Charter Schools Manage Teachers and Acquire Resources

by D. Brent Edwards Jr. & Stephanie M. Hall - 2018

Background/Context: Charter schools are commonly discussed as being more effective at matching student and family interests with school mission, ensuring family choice of educational products and improving education quality and the efficiency of resource use as a result of the competitive dynamics they are assumed to generate between themselves and public schools. The rhetoric around charter schools in general puts little attention on teacher management and resource acquisition, and the literature on charter schools has tended to focus on outcomes such as student achievement. The prevalence of charter schools within and outside the United States underscores the need to understand what role such issues as teacher management and resourcing play in this increasingly popular education reform.

Focus of Study: The purpose of this article is to uncover and present the strategies that charter schools employ for managing teachers and acquiring resources, and with what implications.

Research Design: Through a qualitative case study of a charter school program in Bogotá, Colombia, that began in 1999, we investigated (a) the regulations that governed the hiring, firing, and compensation of charter school teachers, in addition to (b) how charters respond to those regulations in contracting teachers, and (c) the overall approach of charter principals and the charter management organizations (CMO) that oversee them when it comes to teacher engagement, collaboration, supervision, and professional development. In terms of resource acquisition, the focus was on understanding (d) the extent of government-provided resources to charter schools, (e) the perceptions of charter principals and CMO directors of the resources provided by the government, (f) the ways in which these actors have sought to complement these resources, and (g) the kinds of additional resources that have been obtained. Data in the form of documents, archives, literature and evaluations, and qualitative interviews were collected over eight months.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that charter school teachers in Bogotá feel that many aspects of their work environment are positive, though they also report tradeoffs in terms of job security and financial compensation. Charter schools use the flexibility afforded to them around employment to spend half as much on teachers by hiring nonunionized teachers, contracting them for periods of a year or less, assigning teachers to lower compensation categories, and offering significantly lower salaries, despite teachers working over 12 hours more each week than their public school counterparts. Findings with regard to resource acquisition address differences between public and charter schools, perceptions of school leaders, and the routes to resource acquisition used by charter schools, namely budget prioritization, donations, volunteers, partnerships, and alumni networks. Implications for future research are discussed, including the need for studies to distinguish among types of charter schools. The article concludes that, when addressing the costs and benefits of charter schools, we need to ask: Costs in what sense? Benefits for whom? And at whose expense?

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 10, 2018, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22248, Date Accessed: 1/15/2021 7:11:17 PM

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About the Author
  • D. Brent Edwards Jr.
    University of Hawaii, Manoa
    E-mail Author
    D. BRENT EDWARDS JR. is an assistant professor of theory and methodology in the study of education at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Previously he was an assistant clinical professor of educational administration and international education at Drexel University, Philadelphia. His work focuses on (a) the global governance of education and (b) education policy, politics, and political economy, with a focus on low-income countries. Within these two research lines, Edwards has focused on investigating the rise of global education policies and the influence of international organizations, as well as trends related to educational privatization (e.g., charter schools, low-fee private schools), decentralization, and community participation. The third general area of Edwards’s research focuses on (c) critical engagement and democratic alternatives to dominant neoliberal education models. Geographically, these three areas of focus have led to research in Mexico, Colombia, Central America (El Salvador, Honduras), Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines), and Zambia. He has two recent books: The Trajectory of Global Education Policy: Community-Based Management in El Salvador and the Global Reform Agenda and The Political Economy of Schooling in Cambodia: Issues of Equity and Quality (both with Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Stephanie Hall
    University of Maryland, College Park
    E-mail Author
    STEPHANIE M. HALL is a Ph.D. candidate in international education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research interests are in higher education and teacher education policy and the privatization of public education in both the United States and Brazil. Her dissertation is an analysis of public and private sector forces on Brazilian teacher policy. In 2016, The Qualitative Report published her coauthored meta-analysis of five years’ worth of qualitative research appearing in comparative and international education journals. Stephanie is also a 2017 David L. Clark Scholar and a 2017 New Economy Maryland Fellow.
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