Politics of Charter Schools III
According to State Education Commissioner Peter McWalters, much of the debate on charter schools centers around the issues of power and control. Specifically, this battle revolves around which entity, public schools or charter schools, has more of a “right” to money from a finite pool of education dollars. As reported by the Providence Journal, charter school supporters are trying “to figure out how to counter the us-versus-them mentality” and held a conference at the Providence Chamber of Commerce yesterday to do just that.
Yesterday, the general consensus was that charter schools have gotten a bad rap. Their opponents — teachers’ unions and school superintendents — say that charters siphon money away from the public schools and that they lure the best students from the local districts.
But, according to charter league president Robert Pilkington, 59 percent of charter school students are minorities and more than half qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, which means they are poor. Moreover, 18 percent of these students are children with special needs. . .
What separates charter schools from their traditional peers is that they operate outside most of the bureaucracy that governs district schools. They are also characterized by having small classes, innovative thinking and greater parental involvement.
Ron Wolk, the founder of Education Week, says the public school system is so entrenched that it can’t be fixed by tinkering around the edges. What the nation needs is a parallel school system that challenges the bureaucracy. Charter schools, he said, could be a big part of that solution.
Perhaps if more public school teachers and administrators had worried about the kids they were teaching and less about their benefits and power, there wouldn’t have been a challenge from charter schools in the first place. They are now reaping what they have sown.
Caveat: I recognize the fine work and effort of the majority of teachers. It is not their teaching ability nor their commitment I disagree with, it is their unwillingness to apply the open-mindedness taught in the classroom to themselves as they consider non-traditional, extra-public education methods.