Recently I found myself on the receiving end of ire, both public and personal, over the perceptions other people have of my stance on charter schools. I say it in that way because, to date, I have no stance on charter schools. I am aware that some of my readers will say – are currently saying – “yeah, right”. But it’s true. As much as it simplifies things to pit public against charter school supporters in a universal fashion, life is invariably more complex than that.
I do not disagree with charter schools. I do not disagree with choices for students. I do not disagree with providing every student a high quality education. I do not dispute the gains made by charter schools. I feel and share the anguish of parents frustrated and angry about the state of public education in America.
If we focus the conversation on what’s best for the kids, we can fairly well simplify things. Kids need food. They need clothing. They need shelter. They need to feel safe. They need love, and attention. Those basic needs must be met before anything else can take place.
Stay with me here, because I’m about to make a big leap.
They need a parent or guardian who cares about them to provide all those things.
If you’re smart or you’ve heard me say this before, nothing I’m going to say will be shocking. Charter schools ARE public schools. Their teachers come directly from the same pool of applicants as regular ole public schools. They draw from students in the same demographic area – with some restrictions – and have access to the same basic funding and law structure as regular old public schools.
So what makes charter schools so amazing? Why is there a waiting list of more than 700 kids for Newark Charter School? Why the bitter debate, fueled by emotion and fear, over charter school growth and public school decline?
If you care enough to fill out the forms, move into the 5-mile radius, go through the lottery system, and fulfill the requirements of charter school admission, you are probably the parent of a child who will be successful in a traditional public school. You have a child who is fed, clothed, sheltered, safe, and likely to succeed in school, regardless of socioeconomic status. You will be the involved parent many teachers crave, particularly at the secondary level.
Guys, there truly is no difference between the charter schools and the public schools except the environment, and I truly from the bottom of my heart sincerely believe that this has more to do with the parental and community involvement than with anything else.
I would whole-heartedly support the opening of a secondary charter school in downtown Wilmington. That’s the place where I feel an alternative school environment could make a huge difference. Not in west Newark. Not in Pike Creek. Not in Hockessin. And not an elementary school. Virtually all public elementary schools are rated superior, so there truly is no need for charter at that level. The middle and high schools are the ones that need the help. Those kids are the ones being left behind.
I guess my bottom line is this – if you are really going to argue that the charter school movement is in the best interest of the kids, put your actions where your words are. Do the research, look into the issue, and make sensible decisions that actually have the potential to change things.