Charter Schools In Perspective

In 2015, we launched a set of resources to enlighten and improve the conversation about charter schools in the United States. Today, the conversation continues, most recently as a key point of debate in teacher strikes across the country.

With support from the Spencer Foundation, we updated our research from 2015 to include the latest data on charter school finances, student achievement, and public opinion, among other topics. Though neither Public Agenda nor the Spencer Foundation takes positions on charter schools, we believe there's a need for more informed, thoughtful conversation on the topic.

Because the policy landscape of charter schools varies so much from state to state and city to city, and because information about charter schools is so often confusing and contradictory, we hope that this update, along with our existing resources, will contribute to this conversation nationally and in communities.

Find out more at

ENGAGING IDEAS – 02/22/2019


These Are the Americans Who Live in a Bubble (The Atlantic)
One of the many questions the Trump era has raised is whether Americans actually want a pluralistic society, where people are free to be themselves and still live side by side with others who aren't like them. Continue reading

The New Democratic Primary Calendar Emphasizes Nonwhite Voting Power (New York Magazine)
This decisive turn toward diversity, reinforced by California's decision to move up its primary to Super Tuesday, represents a potentially critical new wrinkle in the nomination process. Continue reading

OPINION - If news is dying, who will safeguard democracy? (The Guardian)
When the news industry began 200 years ago, it grounded the world in fact. Now faith, localism and entertainment rule
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Why No One Talks About The High Unemployment Rate Among Women With Disabilities (Forbes)
It's not news that there is gender inequality when it comes to employment. Ever since the mid-1900s, if not earlier, women across the U.S. have been fighting for equal wages and equal treatment in the workforce. However, women with disabilities are too often left out of discussions about feminism and equal wage.
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LA homeless advocates have a new tech tool for affordable housing (Marketplace)
LeaseUp is a website that makes it easier for landlords to list affordable housing units and for nonprofits to find those homes. Continue reading

Even at Top Colleges, Graduation Gaps Persist for Poor Students (Wall Street Journal)
As elite schools expand access for low-income students, graduation rates lag. Continue reading


What's New in Civic Tech: What Is Digital Distress? (Government Tech)
Honolulu launches a new performance dashboard; NYC city planning creates a digital platform for a lengthy zoning resolution; major jurisdictions prep for Open Data Day; a host of gov tech jobs are available; and more. Continue reading

How grassroots efforts are trying to solve the teacher shortage crisis (Hechinger Report)
One teacher at a time, nonprofit groups try to address the lack of teachers in the Mississippi Delta. After years of inaction, the state finally steps in to help them.
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OPINION - A Nation of Weavers (New York Times)
We're living with the excesses of 60 years of hyperindividualism. There's a lot of emphasis in our culture on personal freedom, self-interest, self-expression, the idea that life is an individual journey toward personal fulfillment. You do you. But Weavers share an ethos that puts relationship over self. We are born into relationships, and the measure of our life is in the quality of our relationships. We precedes me. Continue reading


This personalized learning program was supposed to boost math scores. It didn't, new study finds (Chalkbeat)
A program that Bill Gates once called "the future of math" didn't improve state test scores at schools that adopted it, according to a new study.
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The U.S. Teaching Population Is Getting Bigger, and More Female (The Atlantic)
Women now make up a larger share of educators than they have in decades. Continue reading

District eliminates extended school year, invests more in classroom technology (Washington Post)
Three years after launching an expensive education experiment, the District is eliminating extended school years at 13 campuses after city leaders said there was scant evidence of improved academic achievement, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Thursday.
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Higher Ed/Workforce

As Students Struggle With Stress and Depression, Colleges Act as Counselors (New York Times)
Students and institutions are grappling with issues like the surge in school shootings and trauma from suicides and sexual assault. But it's not just the crises that have shaken this generation - it's the grinding, everyday stresses, from social media pressures to relationship problems to increased academic expectations.
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New Florida Study Shows Students Using State's Tax Credit Scholarship Program More Likely to Attend and Graduate College (The 74)
To the research on private school choice, add one more layer: The Urban Institute has released the results of a study that shows that students participating in Florida's tax credit scholarship program are more likely to enroll in college than their traditional-school peers, and somewhat more likely to earn a bachelor's degree.
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Why are tribal college students slow to ask for financial aid? (Hechinger Report)
A report about student experiences at tribal colleges and universities finds a lag in seeking aid, along with reluctance to take out loans. Continue reading

Health Care

From Common Frustrations, Some Common Ground on Health Care (
With many of us paying a larger share of our health care bills out of pocket, it's increasingly important to have clear and accurate information about health care prices. Continue reading

Hospitals now employ more than 40% of physicians, analysis finds
(Healthcare Dive)

Hospitals acquired 8,000 medical practices and 14,000 physicians left private practice and entered into employment arrangements with hospitals between July 2016 and January 2018, according to a new report by Avalere Health and the Physicians Advisory Institute (PAI). Continue reading

Hospital groups push for seat at table as lawmakers address 'surprise billing'
(Fierce Healthcare)

In a letter sent to Congressional leaders on Tuesday, the groups-which include the American Hospital Association and Federation of American Hospitals-laid out principles they want lawmakers to consider as they seek to address the problem over the next few months. Continue reading

ENGAGING IDEAS – 01/18/2019


The Populist Specter (The Nation)
Is the groundswell of popular discontent in Europe and the Americas what's really threatening democracy? Continue Reading

Waiting for a Shutdown to End in Disaster (The Atlantic)
Aides on Capitol Hill fear that a dramatic government failure may be the only thing to force President Trump and the Democrats back to the table. Continue Reading

It's time for think tanks and universities to take the democracy pledge (The Washington Post)
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has put the spotlight on think tanks and universities receiving funding from the Saudi regime. Under pressure by media reports, a few think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, the Center for International Studies and the Middle East Institute, have decided to return Saudi money. Continue Reading


Why midsized metro areas deserve our attention (Brookings)
Consensus is forming that place matters for economic policy; and evidence is mounting that the largest places are succeeding while smaller ones are not. Continue Reading

How Educational Opportunity Programs graduate first-generation college students (Hechinger Report)
Nationally, only 11 percent of first-generation students typically graduate in six years; 55 percent of New Jersey's educational opportunity program students earn a degree in six years. Continue Reading

As Poll Shows Majority Back 70% Tax Rate for Ultra-Rich, Ocasio-Cortez's "Radical" Proposal Proves Extremely Mainstream (Common Dreams)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sparked a flood of hysterical and error-filled responses from the right when she suggested in a recent "60 Minutes" interview that America's top marginal tax rate should be hiked to 70 percent to help pay for bold progressive programs, but a survey published on Tuesday found that the majority of Americans are on the freshman congresswoman's side. Continue Reading


New York's Democracy Reform Bill, and the Message It Sends (The American Prospect)
After decades in which all reforms were stymied, the new legislature enacted sweeping changes to voting laws on its second day in session. Continue Reading

Federal judge strikes down Wisconsin early-voting restrictions (The Hill)
U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled Thursday that the early-voting limits were clearly similar to restrictions that were blocked two years ago, according to The Associated Press. Continue Reading


As government shutdown drags on, New York City vows to protect school food program (Chalkbeat)
The federal government provides about $43 million a month to pay for school meals in New York City, and right now the city has money on hand that would last until April. Continue Reading

At Los Angeles Teachers' Strike, a Rallying Cry: More Funding, Fewer Charters (The New York Times)
After more than a year of protracted negotiations, the district's 30,000 public schoolteachers walked out demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes and more support staff for students. But the union is also using the strike as a way to draw attention to what it sees as the growing problem of charter schools, saying that they siphon off students and money from traditional public schools. Continue Reading

Report: Online learning should 'supplement' - not replace - face-to-face instruction (Education Dive)
A new report takes a critical view of fully online courses and competency-based education (CBE) as regulators and stakeholders discuss the topics during the negotiated rulemaking session that kicked off this week. Continue Reading

Higher Ed/Workforce

No Tuition, but You Pay a Percentage of Your Income (The New York Times)
Income Sharing Agreements are gaining the attention of higher education and Wall Street. One early success story is getting a boost from venture capital. Continue Reading

City University of New York Struggles to Fill Top Job (Wall Street Journal)
The City University of New York is close to ending its search for a new chancellor after having difficulties filling the position atop one of the nation's pre-eminent public systems of higher education. Continue Reading

America's colleges struggle to envision the future of diversity on campus (Hechinger Report)
America's colleges struggle to define, let alone achieve, diverse campuses in today's identity-centric and socioeconomically divided climate. Continue Reading

Health Care

Nearly half of doctors feel burned out, Medscape survey shows (Healthcare Dive)
Nearly 44% of American physicians report feeling burned out - and it's especially a problem for female doctors, according to a new Medscape report on doctor burnout, depression and suicide. Continue Reading

What's next after the CMS price transparency "first step" (MedCity News)
A new price transparency rule from CMS requires hospitals to post their retail list prices online, but critics are saying it doesn't go nearly far enough. Continue Reading

Microsoft, Walgreens team up to develop new healthcare delivery models (Fierce Healthcare)
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA) and Microsoft Corp. announced on Tuesday that they will team up to develop new healthcare delivery models, including technology and retail innovations to disrupt the healthcare delivery space. Continue Reading

ENGAGING IDEAS – 01/11/2019


A Jury of Peers (
How Ireland used a Citizens' Assembly to solve some of its toughest problems. Continue Reading

Competitive elections are good for democracy - just not every democracy (The Conversation)
Our study, published in the American Political Science Review, examined four decades of data from 164 countries to see how competitive elections effect policymaking and government services. Continue Reading

Democracies In Crisis: Has The West Given Up On Democracy? (
One of the key signs that people have not given up on democracy is public protest. Whether it's the Yellow Vests in Paris, or anti-Trump Woman's March protests, participatory democracy is thriving. Continue Reading


Top Colleges Are Enrolling More Students From Low-Income Homes (Washington Post)
A major push to increase enrollment of lower-income students at the nation's top colleges and universities is showing some early signs of success. Continue Reading

How wealth inequality in the US affects health inequality in the US: 4 essential reads (The Conversation)
If you have health insurance, a nice home and a decent job, why should you care about health inequality in the U.S.? This question was the underlying theme of several articles penned by health policy scholars in The Conversation in 2018. They explained such topics such as threats to the Affordable Care Act, insurance coverage, Medicaid expansion and the lack of access to health care for many people - the so-called health care gap. These experts argued that this gap is actually a threat to the system that serves all Americans. Continue Reading

How Fair Is American Society? (Yale Insights)
Americans tend to be overly optimistic about economic equality between white and black citizens, according to a new study by Yale researchers. SOM's Michael Kraus discusses why people systematically misperceive the reality of the wealth and income gap and what can be done to make the American dream more than a myth. Continue Reading


As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Steps Away From Public Life, Her Legacy, iCivics, Begins Broad Push for Increased Civics Education (The 74)
Only 23 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in civics education, meaning they can correctly answer questions about the three branches of government, the Constitution, and voting. Continue Reading

The new urban bullies: Tech companies need to learn public engagement (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Tech companies might have some great ideas, but they should spend more time consulting with the people who lives are going to be affected by them. Continue Reading


Colorado Gov. Jared Polis pushes 'free kindergarten now' in opening address (Chalkbeat)
Funding full-day kindergarten will give more Colorado kids a good start in life, put money back in the pockets of working families, and let school districts put resources into other areas, Gov. Jared Polis said in his first State of the State address. Continue Reading

As L.A. teachers threaten to strike, union leaders are fighting a controversial school reform strategy (Chalkbeat)
If Los Angeles teachers go on strike this week or next, it won't just be about dollars and cents - it will be part of a broader fight over the role of charter schools and an obscure but influential school reform idea. Continue Reading

Aldeman & Schmitz: D.C.'s High Teacher Turnover Rate Hurts Educators as Well as Students. Blame the District's Pension Plan (The 74)
A recent report from the State Board of Education of the District of Columbia found that D.C. schools of all types lose about one-quarter of their educators every year. These rates are much higher than in peer cities around the country, and they are exceptionally high for certain roles and schools. Continue Reading

Higher Ed/Workforce

Education Dept. steps up to help students stymied by financial aid application requirements (Wall Street Journal)
The U.S. Education Department will make it easier for families to provide proof of their income, clearing the way for some of the neediest college students to gain access to federal loans and grants. Continue Reading

Millions of College Students Are Going Hungry (The Atlantic)
As the costs of college have climbed, some students have gone hungry. When they've voiced frustration, they've often been ridiculed: "Ramen is cheap," or"Just eat cereal." Continue Reading

Worries Grow About Outsourcing of College Degrees (Inside Higher Ed)
Proposal to lift cap on college programs offered through unaccredited entities stirs concerns about giving companies back door to federal student aid. Continue Reading

Health Care

Verma: Chargemaster rule is 'first step' to price transparency (Modern Healthcare)
CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Thursday that the agency is working to improve a new rule requiring hospitals to post chargemaster prices on their websites after experts said the data wouldn't help consumers. Continue Reading

How AI could shape the health tech landscape in 2019 (Healthcare Dive)
Highlights include technologies seeking to cut costs and promote patient health, especially in imaging, diagnostic, predictive analytics and administration. Continue Reading

NYC Promises 'Guaranteed' Healthcare for All Residents (MedPage)
The city of New York is launching a program to guarantee that every resident has health insurance, as well as timely access to physicians and health services, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday. Continue Reading

ENGAGING IDEAS – 12/21/2018


Senate overwhelmingly backs overhaul of criminal justice system (Washington Post)
The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system, after a remarkable political shift from Republicans who voted in large numbers to save money by reducing prison sentences, handing a rare bipartisan victory to President Trump.
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Barack Obama Goes All In Politically to Fight Gerrymandering(The Atlantic)
The former president sees representative elections as the key to progress on global warming, gun control, and health care.
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How the Russians attacked America's democracy (USA Today)
Two new reports for the Senate Intelligence Committee describe how the Russians heavily targeted Americans with deceitful messages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other social media platforms.
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A new Trump rule could take food stamps away from 755,000 people (Vox)
The USDA wants to toughen SNAP work requirements, but there's little evidence the program discourages work.
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How we can encourage innovative solutions to poverty and inequality (Fast Company)
Despite so many advances in science and technology, we haven't seen many large-scale applications to problems of the poor.
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Eviction Lab examines the intersection of poverty and housing (Princeton University)
Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2016 bestseller "Evicted," and his team created a national database of eviction records, where visitors can see how their region stacks up against others, look at maps of eviction rates, and more.
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'Participatory budgeting' proposal could give Atlantans control of city funds (Curbed)
"Residents know better than City Hall what their neighborhood needs most," says councilman Amir Farokhi
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Data suggests voter turnout for midterms may not change much, despite political culture (The Slate)
Every other year, millions of Americans turn out to vote on the first Tuesday of the month of November. They come from every state and represent people of a variety of backgrounds. But what is one of the historically lowest-represented groups? Young adults.
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Los Angeles Teachers Threaten to Strike in January (Wall Street Journal)
Union on Wednesday rejected the district's offer of a 6% salary raise and said many of its demands remain unmet.
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What worked (and didn't) this year: 10 lessons from education research to take into 2019 (Chalkbeat)
We've synthesized what we learned from research in 2018, focusing on which policies seemed to work and which didn't. We're using "what worked" as a shorthand for policies that improved test scores or affected metrics like suspensions, attendance, and high school graduation rates.
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A New Push for Play-Based Learning: Why Districts Say It's Leading to More Engaged Students, Collaborative Classmates ... and Better Grades (The 74)
This child-directed learning has been shown to deliver the best results for academic outcomes, according to a study of three preschool programs in Washington, D.C. Students who had been in a formal, traditional academic environment during preschool earned lower grades after several years of schooling than their peers who had been in preschools where active, child-initiated learning was more common, the study found.
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Higher Ed/Workforce

Despite decades of pledging to hire more black faculty, most universities didn't (Hechinger Report)
The number of black faculty on college campuses has gone down during the last decade.
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US college completion rate climbs to 58% (Education Dive)
Student completion rates are up at two- and four-year U.S. colleges, regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, or age, according to a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The organization analyzed six-year completion rates for first-time, degree-seeking students who enrolled in college in the fall of 2012.
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Law Schools Find a Way to Fill Seats (Wall Street Journal)
New offerings include master's programs for students not interested in practicing law, courses for foreign lawyers
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Health Care

What Is the Status of Women's Health and Health Care in the U.S. Compared to Ten Other Countries? (The Commonwealth Fund)
Women in the U.S. have the highest rate of maternal mortality because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth, as well as among the highest rates of caesarean sections. Women in Sweden and Norway have among the lowest rates of both.
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Texas still hasn't expanded Medicaid. That's leaving a gap in coverage for hundreds of thousands. (The Texas Tribune)
More and more states have decided to expand Medicaid, but Texas has not budged. With more than a half million Texans in the so-called health coverage gap, will the politics of the issue shift in next year's legislative session?
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Number of outpatient facilities surges as industry values more convenient, affordable care (Modern Healthcare)
The number of outpatient centers increased 51% from 2005 to 2016, a trend that shows no sign of slowing.
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