Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tuition Free?

OK, Pet Peeve Time, readers of The Educated Reporter. Why is that so many charter schools in their promotional messages describe themselves as “tuition free”? I understand that people often are confused about what charter schools are or are not, but they are emphatically public schools, not private schools.

At a recent meeting I attended where a new Baton Rouge charter school was selling itself, the school’s director used this “tuition free” phrase. He said he’d worked at private schools and public schools and that charter schools were in the middle, “the best of both worlds.” Now, I understand a bit of what he’s saying — they are open to everyone, but have more freedom than traditional public schools — but come on! These are public schools, no question. Yes, some raise private money on the side to supplement their budgets, but so do many traditional public schools. The best explanation for selling yourself in this way, to me, is to persuade parents interested in private schools, but who can’t afford them, that going to a charter school is equivalent to attending a private school and doing so for free! Charter schools, while given some freedom, still have loads of laws to abide by that put them in the same family as traditional public schools. To my mind, it’s purposely misleading.

I have seen this “tuition free” wording elsewhere in Louisiana. And a Google search of the phrase “tuition free charter school” produced 86,000 hits just now, so we’re not alone on this. It would be nice if charter schools would stop pretending and embrace the fact that they are public schools to all audiences.

(By the way, I’ve been slow to post this week. I’ve got some OK excuses, but I know you all expect more while Linda is off. I will try to make it up to you on this Good Friday with some thoughtful posts. Never fear, The Educated Reporter herself is scheduled to return next week.)