Showing the Charter School Love

May 6, 2008 by

My daughter goes to a charter school. I got an email the other day about tomorrow’s rally in Baton Rouge in celebration of Charter Schools Week (I’ve never heard of this one and wonder why it is the same damn week as Teacher Appreciation Week):

Louisiana Celebrates National Charter Schools Week
Wednesday, May 7, 11:30 a.m.
Steps of State Capitol, Baton Rouge

State Senator Cheryl Gray
House Speaker Pro Tem Karen Carter
Algiers Charter School Association
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools
Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools
Louisiana Charter School Association
New Schools New Orleans
and others!

Open to the public

And then at the end, the email says:

We intend to:

  • Increase awareness that charter schools are public schools;
  • Advocate for more favorable policy environment for charter schools in Louisiana; and
  • Show how the quality and accountability of charter schools is transforming public education in Louisiana.

Even if I could be there, I wouldn’t. Why? Because charter schools here are NOT public schools. More than a handful of charters, regardless of the supervising agency, have selective admissions and even those that don’t get to cap their enrollment where they choose. They are not obligated to provide for special needs students (at either end of the spectrum) and a fractured “system” makes providing that extra care harder or impractical–how can one single school afford a full-time special education teacher paid out of its current budget for 3 or even 10 students? How can that expense be justified to the 99+% of parents whose children do not need these services? Also, where’s the accountability if no research has been done and is only going to be started at some point in the future AND when schools can provide whatever data they want however they want? There is no standard system for comparing current charter schools or comparing schools now to schools before (and I get this from the Cowen Institute report, not my ass)? A public school takes every child who walks in and educates every child that stays, regardless of need. That’s what public schools are supposed to be about and for. And do we need a “more favorable policy environment” for charters in LA? There are bills in the state legislature now which aim to make our charter school “system” permanent regardless of results, flaws or failures. And no transformation of public education has occurred yet. From my vantage point, we have a few innovators but mostly we have new themes for schools–social justice, college prep (whatever that means), math and science, math and business, art and technology. A theme is not a reform.

There is a place for charters in a public school system. But that doesn’t mean that charters should become a school system. How can we be sure all our children are educated if they are divided into fiefdoms or placed on their own islands? And it will take years, at least one generation, for charter schools to change NO public schools from being schools of last resort (a Cowen Institute phrase) to just plain schools.

You will not see this black mother at that rally.

pic cropped from SanFranAnnie

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