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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Charter School Confusion/Decisions?

I read a lot about charter schools, but I'm confused about a number of matters in this regard.

First, I know that one attraction to charter schools is that they have the ability to keep well supported students and not keep students who misbehave or whom are not well supported. This creates, in part, a potentially safer, more dedicated student/family body for the school. Parents who care about their students worry about schools that may be unsafe and students who may be unsupported, thus the draw to charter schools.

Next, I also know that charter schools can circumvent some of the red tape that holds back innovation and service in your typical public school. An innovation or approach that may be easy to employ in a charter school may be more cumbersome to try out in a public school due to red tape and bureaucracy.

Further I have read that many charter schools underpay their employees. Is that true? If so, are we satisfied with that? Do public schools similarly underpay some employees?

I have also heard that some charter schools are supported by venture capitalists and for-profit agencies. Is this true, and if so, what does "for profit" do to organizations that are meant to first and foremost serve students? Do these organizations have the best interests of students in mind?

I have read that charter schools take needed funds and successful students away from local public schools. Is it fair that the State supports some schools for successful, supported students and some schools for less successful and less supported students? What does a divide like this do for our communities, culture, and nation? Recently I heard the sociologist, Robert Putnam, speak. As I listened to him compare his home town from the days when he was young to today, I recognized the same growing disparity and distance in my own home city. It was true that we were comfortable visiting any part of the city when we were young and we had friends from diverse economic groups, and I believe that's less true today. We are more separated by social class, and this has had a detrimental affect on who we are as a people. Does support of charter schools increase that disparity and weaken our democracy by further segregating us by economics, family support, and other factors?

What is the role of the public school in today's society? Who continues to support public schools and why? What is our vision for public schools going forward? How do we see the support for charter schools' impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren?

I'm not a fan of one-size-fits-all solutions. I do think that variety and choice supports a dynamic culture, but I also believe that we have to support all of our children with the best possible programs, institutions, and opportunity. Supporting our children is an investment in the future because well supported children will grow up to be positive, proactive contributors to society.

I'm one small voice in this debate, a debate that requires substantial, deep thought and process. It's not a quick fix or fast solution, but instead a process that demands the voice of all and the question, What kind of State do we want and how do we want to support all of our children best? We are laying the foundation for the future, and what we do today matters for generations to come.

What are your thoughts and opinions related to this matter? How will you add to the debate and discussion?