A Phillie Teacher

I was a starry-eyed teacher from New Jersey. Now I work for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Charter vs Public

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 3, 2010

Tomorrow I start a new job in a different building. For anyone new to my blog, I’ve been transferred from a middle school Language Arts/Social Studies position to an all English high school assignment.

My last position was . . . let’s call it challenging. Those 7th graders were some of the toughest people I ever met — and I speak from personal experience that includes helping felons earn their GEDs.

So . . . tomorrow a whole new slate. But with a twist: last Wednesday I interviewed at a charter school. It felt so . . deceitful, like cheating on a marriage, to be interviewing at another school and very seriously considering whether I will work there.

Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

Public School


  • pretty decent salary
  • almost guaranteed employment since turnover is so great
  • some kind of union representation

  • chaotic administration
  • benchmark testing every 6 weeks with mandated “reteaching” every 5 weeks prior to the test
  • scripted curriculum and methods
  • students who range from heartbreaking angels to devils on earth (IEPs? nope. Not enough counselors for classification)
  • no classroom resources beyond what the teacher supplies him/herself

Charter School


  • smaller class size
  • supposedly better motivated, better behaved students
  • parental buy-in
  • classroom resources vary from school to school
  • smaller, streamlined administration, due to fact that charters may not have more than 600 students

  • no union
  • less money

Driving time is about the same in both cases.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Am I leaving something out of these lists?


5 Responses to “Charter vs Public”

  1. Personally, I think your list is about right. However, charter schools usually have longer school years or work days and that can be draining. If I had my choice right now, I’d be at a charter school. Teachers are scrutinized more closely in charter schools and they can release you from your contract at anytime. You are really held to the standard with those test scores and stuff. So those are things you should look out for when dealing with a charter school.

  2. dkzody said

    This is coming too late, I gather, but I would take the charter job for a year. Our school district allows you to leave for a year and will give you your old job back if you return in that year. Perhaps your union has bargained the same deal?

    • That would be nice. Actually there is a big riff (rift?) between the public school and charters. Each sees the other as direct competition with students as the battleground. Each system insists that theirs is the best and each can list convincing evidence for their side.

      On the other hand it has been said that charter schools were really started as a means to putting an end to teachers’ unions. Judging by the violent reaction from some charter administrators I think there may be some truth to it.

  3. I know a charter teacher who was fired for showing her colleagues how much union teachers make. I know another who was fired, along with virtually every other teacher in the school, for insisting special ed. kids got services to which they were entitled.

    Public school is indeed tougher, but the kids need you more, and if you can do this job, you can do anything.

    Go for the money, and go for the kids who need you!

  4. Indiana said

    If it’s a mom and pop charter school, I might consider it. But if it’s one of the fast food gargantuate chains i.e., Imagine Schools, I’d run. Your cons for public school match those of these types of charters. They have no classroom resources, no sustainability in their administration, an over load of young inexperienced teachers and no plan for education. Students aren’t better behaved either. Many of them are there because their parents think the problem with their child’s low academics and bad behavior is due to the public school system they’re in. They’re expecting a miracle from the charters. Many are happy for a year (and very vocal about it) but then reality sets in and they quietly disappear…..

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