Closing a traditional public school is rarely an easy task. Cities with declining populations have had one heck of a time closing neighborhood schools -- I can't count how many times a planned school closing has spawned a community uprising. And when school board members are elected by district it's even tougher -- what're the odds of getting re-elected if you let a school in your district be shut down despite raucous opposition from a group of concerned citizens?
While traditional public schools are often built to remain a permanent (at least for the foreseeable future) fixture of the community, charter schools are necessarily designed to be opened and closed with much greater frequency. The market theory underlying charter schools dictates that only the strong shall survive. So, in order for charters to live up to the promise of this theory they must be shuttered with greater frequency than other schools.
The expectation that charter schools will be closed unless they meet certain expectations should make them easier to close, but I'm not sure that it does. On the one hand, there's not usually a neighborhood or large alumni base rallying to save a charter school on its way out. On the other hand, charters to attract the students of more socially active parents. Take this article (hat tip: Alexander Russo) in yesterday's Fresno Bee, for example. The local KIPP school there is on the verge of closing, and parents are up in arms.
Granted, the school's not being shuttered for low performance -- it's the second highest-performing middle school in the district based on the current grading system -- but rather a set of complex circumstances. It seems that the school has defaulted on a construction loan that they thought would be repaid by a state grant. Meanwhile, the state won't give them the grant until the city signs off on it. And the city won't sign off on it until the school fixes a number of problems that were noted in a recent report -- including charges of corporal punishment by the principal (who has resigned), the hiring of uncredentialed teachers and the lack of fingerprinting before hiring staff.
Nevertheless, I wonder whether closing a charter is easier, on average, than closing a traditional public school. I have to believe that more people arise when a neighborhood school is threatened, but which would you fight harder: the closing of your neighborhood school or the closing of a school you had chosen yourself and for which you had to submit yourself to three hours of interviews, woken up at dawn every day to drive your child to school, and signed a contract that you would read with your child every night?