MAKING THE GRADE: Charter Schools

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Charter schools are public schools that are allowed to operate outside of the normal education bureaucracy. Do charter schools work? We examine this growing movement and look at the evidence: do charter schools out-perform normal public schools? If so, why? Who goes to charter schools? And what happens when for-profit companies run charter schools?

Recorded on Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Peter Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. Our show today, Charter Schools. Charter schools are probably best understood by contrast with ordinary, public schools. Ordinary public schools, of course, operate under local boards of education, state boards of education, rules imposed by teachers' unions. In other words, one layer of officialdom after another. This produces "cookie cutter" schools.

Charter schools are themselves public schools at least in as much as they receive money from states but charter schools operate outside the educational bureaucracy. This gives principals and teachers the opportunity to try educational experiments. And whereas ordinary public schools are "cookie cutter" schools, charter schools come in all shapes and sizes. At least, that's the argument. There are now some six hundred thousand students in charter schools and the number is rapidly rising. That, of course, leads to the question, do charter schools actually work.

With us today, three guests. Don Shalvey is CEO of University Public Schools, a not-for-profit charter school company. Lauren Dutton is Vice President of Edison Schools, a for-profit school management company. Don and Lauren both think that charter schools are pretty good. Luis Huerta is a researcher with Policy Analysis for California Education or PACE. Louis believes the charter school recipe could use a little work.

Title: Keeping PACE with Charter Schools

Peter Robinson: A report examining charter schools was issued not long ago by PACE, Policy Analysis for California Education. I quote, "As market dynamics are used to energize school reform we, (that is, PACE) have yet to see solid evidence of achievement gains." No solid evidence. In other words, charter schools don't seem to be making any difference yet.

Don, what do you do with that report?

Don Shalvey: I think the report is early and does not necessarily take into account all the schools that are currently up and running.

Peter Robinson: So it's not a serious challenge to you, that finding?

Don Shalvey: Not a serious challenge to me.

Peter Robinson: Lauren, what do you do with that report?

Lauren Dutton: I would agree with that, that it's still very early. We're actually been operating public-charter schools for about as long as anyone.

Peter Robinson: We as your comp…

Lauren Dutton: We as-as Edison. And our results are actually very strong in the first four years.

Peter Robinson: Luis, you helped to write the report or you're-at least you're a co-signer of the report.

Luis Huerta: Co-author.

Peter Robinson: You-you stand by it and consider it important.

Luis Huerta: Well we also note in the report that yes, it is early in the movement. However, with the claims the proponents have been posting throughout the country as far as the-the gains of students in charter schools…

Peter Robinson: Proponents like these two hotheads?

Luis Huerta: Right. We're trying to weigh the-the claims of the proponents against the actual evidence that exists.

Peter Robinson: And, so far, the actual evidence that exists…

Luis Huerta: It's pretty scarce.

Peter Robinson: …pretty scarce?

Luis Huerta: Very scarce.

Peter Robinson: Okay. Now a couple of questions of definition. Pretty obvious question. What is a charter school?

Don Shalvey: A charter school is a public school. It's a public school that has an agreement with a local board of education, most often, to waive some of the rules and regulations of the ed code in order to get maximum accountability.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so it's public school meaning it still gets all its money from the State of California.

Don Shalvey: That's correct.

Peter Robinson: It cuts a deal with a local board of education to get out from under the nine thousand page California education code.

Don Shalvey: That's correct.

Peter Robinson: So that they get their money from the state but get to operate free from a large element of, if I may use the word, bureaucracy? Fair? You go for that?

Don Shalvey: It's fair. I'll go for that.

Peter Robinson: So what distinguishes exactly from a private-all the money comes from the state, what about, say, teaching religion or a charter school can't be run by nuns?

Don Shalvey: Can't be run by nuns, cannot teach religion. Charter public schools are open to anyone. There-there is no restriction as to who can go.

Peter Robinson: But they can be established for special non-sectarian cases, is that the case?

Don Shalvey: That's correct.

Peter Robinson: So you could have a science charter school or one that emphasizes science?

Don Shalvey: Yes, you could.

Peter Robinson: Why did Don Shalvey leave the public school system to start his charter school company in the first place?

Title: The Captain Jumps Ship

Peter Robinson: We turn now to the-to my mind, rather peculiar and certainly striking, Don Shalvey's story. You spent thirty-three years in the California Public Schools, teacher, principal, superintendent, superintendent in San Carlos, up the…

Don Shalvey: Yes.

Peter Robinson: …pretty posh area. So that's a good job, as superintendents' jobs go, I would imagine. And then you left it. Why?

Don Shalvey: Well I left it because I think that-that a public education is going to be strong and I'm a complete public school advocate. Then we have to admit that one size doesn't fit all. We have to admit that some of marketplace economies about school are important and that parents do deserve the right to make a choice for their youngster.

Peter Robinson: So you have founded a company?

Don Shalvey: Founded a company called University Public Schools, co-founded in…

Peter Robinson: University Public Schools, right?

Don Shalvey: That's correct. The purpose of that school is to-our organization is to open a hundred small charter schools in ten locations in California, ten schools in each area, to test the system of what will happen when there is some non-profit competition for-for school choice and for school performance.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so how are you doing so far?

Don Shalvey: We-I think we're doing fine. We have-we have two schools open. We open our third school in the fall. Each of those schools is three hundred and fifty. We believe in small schools. Each of those schools is over-subscribed. We have wait lists of-of two hundred and seventy to three hundred and forty at each of these three schools.

Peter Robinson: Why didn't you stay in the public-the ordinary public school system? You had a big job. You were a superintendent but you found that, even there, the powers of the superintendent were inadequate to reform the schools over which you had jurisdiction. Is that the case?

Don Shalvey: Not necessarily so. No.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Don Shalvey: I actually don't believe that.

Peter Robinson: Because you had jumped ship and I don't know why you jumped-why you jumped from that ship?

Don Shalvey: I have-I have jumped ship but stayed in the same fleet…

Peter Robinson: All right.

Don Shalvey: …of public schools.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Don Shalvey: So I went from an ocean liner to a kayak probably would be the best way I could describe that.

Peter Robinson: And I'm still trying to tease out a little bit more clearly why-why you jumped off the ocean liner.

Don Shalvey: I jumped off the ocean liner because I think if-if public educators don't look at the choice option and the marketplace option, we'll be considered a sort of recalcitrant, bureaucratic mess. And if we don't, I think we'll be staring private school vouchers straight in the face.

Peter Robinson: And you're a private organization?

Don Shalvey: We are a 501(c)3 non-profit public benefit corporation.

Peter Robinson: Okay. Which brings us to the question of charter schools generally and who should run them. Lauren, tell me about your company and what you do in relation to charter schools.

Lauren Dutton: Edison Schools is the country's largest manager-private manager of public schools. About two-thirds of those are charter schools. And about one-thirds of-of those are direct contracts with school districts.

Peter Robinson: Okay. So how many charter schools do you manage then?

Lauren Dutton: Of our seventy-nine schools, about two-thirds of those are charter.

Peter Robinson: Two-thirds are charter schools. University Public Schools is not-for-profit?

Don Shalvey: That's correct.

Peter Robinson: And you guys are decidedly for-profit?

Lauren Dutton: That's right.

Peter Robinson: You're publicly traded?

Lauren Dutton: Correct.

Peter Robinson: You're on the NASDAQ?

Lauren Dutton: Correct.

Peter Robinson: You approve of this? Would you be happy to see her operation run one of your charter schools some day?

Don Shalvey: Not in California.

Peter Robinson: How come?

Don Shalvey: I just think the-the revenue limit, the dollars going behind each youngster in California, it's challenging to say that we should-we should be pulling a profit off in California public schools.

Peter Robinson: How much revenue do you get per kid in your schools from the state?

Don Shalvey: We get about forty-eight hundred dollars.

Peter Robinson: Forty-eight hundred dollars? There's just no room left for profit. That's your-your claim then?

Don Shalvey: In California, I believe that that's true.

Peter Robinson: There's no room for you to make a profit in California?

Lauren Dutton: Actually it's very interesting in California.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Lauren Dutton: It is-it-in every other…

Peter Robinson: We live to interest our viewers so…

Lauren Dutton: California's what we call our-our fiscally challenged state. As-as these folks can attest to, it-it is. It's very difficult to operate in California. It's very low spending. It's one of the highest costs…

Peter Robinson: Give us-give us a range of other states that you operate in. How much per pupil you've got…

Lauren Dutton: I mean, back in New Jersey and places like that, Connecticut, Massachusetts, you're looking at more, you know, eight, nine thousand dollars per student. You can actually…

Peter Robinson: Twice as much.

Lauren Dutton: Twice as much. And actually, at one point, we thought we probably couldn't come and operate in California because we have a world class school design that we weren't going to compromise on. It's a very full design with art and music. We had so much demand from school districts that want to partner with us that there was a pledge from the Donald and Doris Fisher Family Foundation for twenty-five million dollars…

Peter Robinson: Fisher's are the prominent San Francisco family?

Lauren Dutton: Exactly. For districts to tap into for the up-front million and a half dollars that we invest in school, the rest of the country, that's our own capital. In California, what happened is philanthropists came forward, said we'll do that million and a half so you can operate on an ongoing basis. That's the only reason we've been doing…

Peter Robinson: So your profit margin lies in the philanthropists' gift?

Lauren Dutton: On an ongoing basis, the economics, because our up-front investment comes philanthropically are similar to the rest of the country but it's not a large profit margin.

Peter Robinson: Not a large profit margin.

Peter Robinson: Don and Lauren are enthusiastic about their charter schools but are their schools actually doing a better job?

Title: Making the Grade

Peter Robinson: All this sounds quite chirpy and cheerful and upbeat and so forth and the question is, does it work? What are the results? Do kids in charter schools perform better? What's the evidence?

Luis Huerta: The evidence indicates that kids in charter schools are not performing any better than children in traditional schools.

Peter Robinson: We're repeating what we said at the beginning which is that there's no evidence right now that the kids in charter schools are doing better.

Luis Huerta: There's no robust evidence.

Peter Robinson: No robust evidence but everybody, even you, is willing to say that it's a rather anodyne and harmless finding at the moment because it's still so early. Don't worry, let the charter school revolution, such as it is, go forward because we just don't know yet.

Luis Huerta: As a parent myself, I certainly would not want fewer choices when my child gets into the school aged child…

Peter Robinson: How old, you have kids?

Luis Huerta: Yeah, I have a four-year-old and she will be going into kindergarten soon. So…

Peter Robinson: Public school?

Luis Huerta: Public school. And the more choices that are available to parents, obviously that is a positive. However, as the charter school movement continues to grow, in California we're almost near three hundred schools, nationwide we're at about sixteen hundred, we perhaps need to stand back…

Peter Robinson: Let's just get a sense of scale there. In California, there are some three hundred charter schools out of how many public schools total?

Luis Huerta: There's about five thousand schools total I believe.

Peter Robinson: Is California ahead of the nation, a little behind the nation in charter schools?

Luis Huerta: We have about a third of charter schools in California.

Peter Robinson: Oh so this state is really the laboratory?

Don Shalvey: This state and Arizona.

Peter Robinson: This state and Arizona. Gotcha. Okay now Lauren, you said Edison happens to have numbers that indicate that the kids in charter schools are doing pretty well.

Lauren Dutton: But we look at it as the academic progress of the kids in the school and again…

Peter Robinson: Once you get them?

Lauren Dutton: Right. And actually in two-thirds of our schools again, these are the same students because we're assuming management of the school but they're the same students. It's not a-it wasn't a newly created school. But, across the board, if you look at the growth year-to-year of students and you look at all the trends, we're averaging on-on norm reference tests, which is one type of test that states use, about four percentiles per year which is-is very strong. And-and in other kinds of tests like the ones at…

Peter Robinson: Explain that just to a totally dim laymen, what four percentiles means.

Lauren Dutton: Basically the scores of children are put essentially nationally on the-on the-on a normed curve, right.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Lauren Dutton: So kids are moving-we-the typical scenario in California, almost all of our schools were basically the worst schools in the district and they partnered with us, said we're going to hold you accountable for improving that school. So we're often starting kids at say the fifteen percentile.

Peter Robinson: Oh I see…

Lauren Dutton: So if we move them up say four percentiles per year and-and we start with a five-year contract, it means that we're moving up, you know, at twenty percentiles. And that's a huge difference. If you can move kids from the fifteen to twentieth percentile up to the forties, that has a huge impact on their-the prospects for them to…

Peter Robinson: That sound plausible to you? You haven't seen their numbers and so forth?

Luis Huerta: I have seen some of their numbers.

Peter Robinson: Oh you have?

Luis Huerta: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Sounds plausible?

Luis Huerta: Well again, I go back to the issue of the methodology that's being used in some of these studies and actually the comparison groups as well. We need to look at whether these are snapshots of year-to-year gains or whether this is actually value added to individual students that are followed from year one to two to three. I think it's easy for a school to take a snapshot of-of how the entire third grade level might be doing one year and what the gains might be the next year but we actually need to know how each individual student is increasing its scores from year-to-year. That tells us what the performance of the school and what the effect might be of this school on a child's learning curve.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Peter Robinson: Now just how far are Don and Lauren willing to go? Would they agree that all public schools should be charter schools?

Title: Another Brick in the Wall?

Peter Robinson: The two of you who have given your professional lives to this endeavor of charter schools strike me as zealous but, at the same time, oddly tepid revolutionaries. You want a revolution for a couple of schools in each district. Why don't you want the revolution for all the schools in the district? Why don't you just can that nine thousand page bureaucratic overhang?

Don Shalvey: We're putting our schools in communities where there is limited choice, at best.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Don Shalvey: We think that's an important thing to do.

Peter Robinson: So your answer really is look, the politics of the situation being what they are, public schools in the state of California are unlikely to change dramatically, in a major way, all at once, any time soon. Therefore I, as an educator and, to some extent as a frustrated educator after my thirty-three years in the public school system, am going to operate where I am permitted to operate and that's on the fringe of the system. And I'll do as much good as I can and hope that the revolution starting on the fringe can work backwards through the public school system? So really you're-it's an argument about the political reality, right?

Don Shalvey: Well it's actually not an argument about political reality and I'm not a frustrated public educator by a long shot.

Peter Robinson: Oh you're not frustrated at all, Don.

Don Shalvey: I'm not, absolutely I'm not. The reason I believe we ought to be looking at charter schools is it's one external vehicle in the change process for government. Governmental agencies don't traditionally change. And if they change, they don't change quickly. So that's why we see things like charter public schools as a marketplace economy. That's why we see Governor Davis posting every school's score because the public nature of this is supposed to be an external lever. So its internal and external lever to really crack the system because the system does need to be cracked.

Luis Huerta: Let me-Don's point is important, that charter schools will-may provide innovation which other schools can learn from.

Peter Robinson: What's the evidence so far?

Luis Huerta: Well we do have some evidence that there are some star charter schools and almost every state that has legislation has those and they're usually highlighted and so are their innovations. But we need to now begin to allow those innovations…

Peter Robinson: By star charter school, you mean one-a couple of schools that have just done phenomenally well?

Luis Huerta: Phenomenal and they're always highlighted and they've done, you know, have great innovations that are actually occurring with-with-usually with troubled students…

Peter Robinson: Any of those run by you?

Lauren Dutton: Absolutely. In fact, one of the reasons why districts partner with us to have us actually part of their-their school system, we have a superintendent in Southern California that says, you moved forward our reform agenda by five years just by having you here. These are the ideas that I've wanted to implement. If I can bring you in here and demonstrate it, I have other schools coming to me now asking for these changes.

Peter Robinson: Other schools. Okay.

Lauren Dutton: And I couldn't make that happen because…

Luis Huerta: My point is that we need to begin, if these innovations are actually occurring, we need to begin to make sure that these are actually spilling over to a traditional charter school. These-after all, the spirit of the legislation in almost every state was that these were supposed to be laboratories or experimental laboratories where because of their-they were able to operate without the education code and the regulation, they would be able to innovate and create new ways of teaching and learning. So once these…

Peter Robinson: You sound-although you're the co-author of a report that said the evidence is eh, you actually sound like a believer.

Luis Huerta: Well I'm a believer in the system if it's going to work for all children. And I think, up to now, it has not. We need to remember that there's only-there's a small amount of charter schools…

Peter Robinson: Up to now, the charter school revolution, such as it is, has not worked for all children. Is that…

Luis Huerta: Exactly and we do have some…

Peter Robinson: This brings us to a very important question, just who goes to charter schools?

Title: Power to the Pupil

Peter Robinson: It is a-a feature of charter school that because they get their money from the state, at least here in California and presumably for the most part elsewhere, they're open, in some sense, to all comers.

Don Shalvey: Yes they are.

Lauren Dutton: Actually in-in our schools because they're often existing schools where they choose to partner with us, our first priority is to students that were already in that attendance here and we open it up…

Peter Robinson: I see. Well you're starting new schools though. How do you choose who gets in?

Don Shalvey: Lottery.

Lauren Dutton: Lottery.

Peter Robinson: Lottery?

Don Shalvey: Complete lottery.

Lauren Dutton: And that's the-that's the law really.

Don Shalvey: And that's the law.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so who signs up to get into his schools, what kinds of parents?

Luis Huerta: Well, from some of the evidence of other choice options, we have some very rich evidence in Massachusetts in open enrollment plans which allowed students to move across districts. We have evidence in Milwaukee and Cleveland on the voucher experiments and even though these are not charter schools…

Peter Robinson: Tell us what a voucher is.

Luis Huerta: A voucher is public money that goes to public school student-public school families and allows them to use it for private school or another public institution.

Peter Robinson: The parent gets the check from the State of Wisconsin, in this case, and they get to use it either at a public school or they could go to a…

Luis Huerta: …a private school of their choice.

Peter Robinson: …send it to the nuns or Hillel or some other-or some private school, gotcha.

Luis Huerta: And some of the evidence from those experiments indicate that the families that are choosing are the most mobile again and the most educated and the ones that are able to actually, for example, drive their children across town because transportation…

Peter Robinson: That's why you're doing so well because you're getting the most committed parents.

Don Shalvey: Absolutely not true.

Peter Robinson: Don, come on.

Don Shalvey: Not true, Peter, and I'll tell you…

Peter Robinson: You're just creaming the system.

Don Shalvey: That's what everybody thinks.

Peter Robinson: Cherry-picking.

Don Shalvey: That's right. We are cherry-picking.

Peter Robinson: Okay. So answer the man.

Don Shalvey: We're not cherry-picking actually but I think there's some evidence of that. I think there are some schools that actually do cherry-pick. The issue with charter schools is choice has to be available for everyone which is why you open a school in an urban redevelopment area and you-you invite kids who have been going to a year-round school with eleven hundred kids to come to a school of three hundred kids.

Peter Robinson: Okay, this is very nice but you-you're not exactly answering his question which is that you are getting kids from the most committed parents.

Don Shalvey: I-I'd like any one of us to point to an uncommitted parent. The-the reality is every parent, every one of us who's parents here or will be parents will be committed to our youngster. The opportunity, the access, the availability of schools shouldn't be developed on the basis of you're able to drive or you're able to get a carpool or you're able to provide district transportation. And that-that to me is important.

Peter Robinson: All right. Luis' argument also is an affront to you?

Lauren Dutton: Yeah, parents that are choosing to bring their kids to our school and we do have room and we are able to use the lottery aren't the kids that are succeeding in-in the other schools. I mean, they aren't the ones that are-are choosing to come to charter schools. They're usually-they're usually kids that are-are failing in other environments. I mean, we have a principal that says that-the principal of the district…

Peter Robinson: Do you have substantive evidence of that, do you have any way of measuring how committed the kids are?

Lauren Dutton: I don't know how I would measure how committed they are but...

Peter Robinson: You don't know. Okay now look, the two of you, could I jut make a suggestion here?

Don Shalvey: Sure.

Lauren Dutton: Absolutely.

Peter Robinson: The correct answer to Luis is not, well show me a parent who's not committed. The correct answer to Luis is, so what if they're the most committed parents. Let them come. What we're trying to do is establish schools that will do a good job for those kids but also demonstrate techniques that can then be incorporated in the public school system and that's not an argument against charter schools. There's no way of providing an experiment, so to speak, on the margins or the fringes of the system that will not attract the most interested, the most mobile, the-the most committed parents. And, that being the case, you just start the experiment where you can start it. What do you think of that?

Luis Huerta: I think another…

Peter Robinson: And-and you may take notes on that if you'd like to.

Luis Huerta: Another answer is to allow more access for us to learn. As researchers we're often frustrated by the many, many closed doors that we encounter.

Peter Robinson: Is Edison keeping its doors closed to you?

Luis Huerta: There has been some evidence in the past of not sharing some of the data they-Edison came out with a study, I believe it was two years ago, and sharing that data with other researchers has been an issue. Also who actually conducted the research is an issue where they may have been a potential conflict of interest because the research house that was doing the research was actually a shareholder, I believe. So one of the things…

Peter Robinson: Does this sound right to you that some-a certain amount of defensiveness as to letting the sociologists in to see what's going on?

Lauren Dutton: Actually we publish all of our data. It's all public data. We publish it all in the annual report. We also are contracting with Rand to do a full study that will also be public. So we're actually, at our expense, going…

Peter Robinson: Will you buy him a cup of coffee afterwards?

Lauren Dutton: I will. I'd be happy…

Peter Robinson: Okay, now look…

Peter Robinson: Last question, we've talked about charter schools but what do our guests think of school vouchers?

Title: Checks and Balances

Peter Robinson: What's wrong with vouchers? You've said several times that one of the reasons you're involved in a ch-the charter school movement is to head off this political momentum toward vouchers. What's wrong with the State of California giving that forty-eight hundred bucks per kid to the parents and letting the parents spend it on any school they want to, public, private, what are you so defensive about? Why this part way revolution? Take it the whole way, Don.

Don Shalvey: Here's why I'm defensive about it. I-I think the voucher movement of pulling dollars out of public schools into-into private schools, one; won't solve the achievement gap that we have in our country and-and essentially is-will pull dollars away from public education and into private education. My view.

Peter Robinson: I'll get to you in a moment Luis but does Edison have a view on voucher schools?

Lauren Dutton: We don't participate in vouchers. We're all…

Peter Robinson: You don't?

Lauren Dutton: No we are a public schools. We're all public schools.

Peter Robinson: Period.

Lauren Dutton: Period. And-and that being said, I'm in agreement with Don, I mean, it's really not a real solution that there-the capacity isn't there. And our belief is that…

Peter Robinson: So you…

Lauren Dutton: (?) a lot of value to private/public partnerships and that that is a very real way to make change.

Peter Robinson: So Edison's insistence on participating only in public schools is a matter of principle? You will not, the day after tomorrow, announce a subsidiary which will manage voucher schools?

Lauren Dutton: That's right.

Peter Robinson: You won't do that?

Lauren Dutton: That's right. And you-you can read that in our-our prospectus (?) public. We will not participate in-in voucher programs. We are public schools.

Peter Robinson: Got you. All right. Luis?

Luis Huerta: I think one of the biggest potential problems is the issue of equity. If you take this to scale, if, all of a sudden, every child has the ability to go to a private school, let alone a fact that the blind faith in equality of a child-has not even been addressed but, as we take this to scale, we don't know what's going to happen to the price of private schools. Four thousand dollars may not buy you a private education when there's a high demand for that, especially when we don't even know what the supply of empty seats in private schools is. So four thousand dollar tuition today might become eight thousand dollars once everybody has access to this. The other issue is who's actually going to use the voucher? Is it going to be the-especially when transportation and those issues are not considered and, again, we're going back to the issue of it's probably going to be the folks that are most mobile and know how to navigate that.

Peter Robinson: Folks, I just don't quite get this reticence amounting to almost a kind of recoil and horror when it comes to permitting a free market to operate in education.

Lauren Dutton: There are a lot of people, I mean…

Peter Robinson: Edison, I mean, you guys are traded on NASDAQ and you're saying no, uh uh, no free market in edu-we're not dealing with private schools.

Lauren Dutton: And-and we believe that-there's a reason why we're private. We've raised three hundred and fifty million dollars to date. We're the largest, you know, we're the largest K-12, you know, research projects, a lot of reasons why we believe in that. But I think, personally, and a lot of folks think that someday, that competition, what you're going to see, that free market, is the public school boards will still reserve the right to and-and-and the obligation to manage their schools but, within their school districts, it's going to be like O'Hare Airport where they have national carriers and regional carriers that someday public school boards may have Edison and a few other national for-profit, non-profit. They may…

Peter Robinson: This is an interesting…

Lauren Dutton: …they may have regional and then they may have "district run"…

Peter Robinson: You'd be willing to let individual school boards decide on voucher plans? I mean, you…

Lauren Dutton: I'm actually not-I'm not talking about vouchers. I'm talking about-about-about-that the way they use competition and this kind of free market is to invite non-profit and for-profit players…

Peter Robinson: Within the public system?

Lauren Dutton: …along with public school run because there's a lot of great public schools out there. But school boards should deliver quality education and they should partner with non-profits, for-profits in order to do that and create the competition that you're talking about.

Peter Robinson: It's television. We have to draw it to a close I'm sorry to say. Luis, how many kids in charter schools today?

Luis Huerta: I believe the last count was about sixteen hundred schools and close to six hundred thousand students.

Peter Robinson: Six hundred thousand students out of about fifty, fifty-three million students. So it's a tiny percentage at the most.

Luis Huerta: Less than one percent.

Peter Robinson: Six hundred thousand as of today. Ten years from now how many will there be?

Don Shalvey: I think there will be five to seven percent of the kids.

Peter Robinson: Really?

Don Shalvey: Yes, I do.

Peter Robinson: By the way, is that about the right percentage in your view? Is that optimal or should it be twenty percent?

Don Shalvey: I think seven to ten percent is pretty optimal.

Peter Robinson: Is pretty optimal. So you view yourself as on the crest of a wave that will wash across the great beach of public education.

Don Shalvey: I do.

Peter Robinson: Lauren, six hundred thousand today. How many ten years from now?

Lauren Dutton: I would put it closer to ten percent.

Peter Robinson: Ten percent. That sound about right to you?

Luis Huerta: I think choice is going to continue to grow but either be charter schools or wider open enrollment across-just simply crossing district lines to go to another public school.

Peter Robinson: Don, Luis and Lauren, thank you very much.

Don Shalvey: Thank you very much, Peter.

Lauren Dutton: Thank you.

Peter Robinson: Our guests may have disagreed about the merits of charter schools but they all agreed that we're going to be seeing more and more of them. I'm Peter Robinson. Thanks for joining us.