It is frustrating that we continue to hear some education officials and “experts” naming charter schools among the “threats” to public education [“Back To School,” May 1 Xpress]. This attitude, asserted by people who influence public understanding, is territorial, unfounded and has gone on for too many years now.
Lumping charter schools into a category that includes evils such as teacher cuts, program reductions and deregulation of class size misses the point that these schools are not outside invaders; they are a part of the public education system.
When public school advocates, officials and the media perpetuate the idea that charter schools undermine “the public system,” they miss opportunities to create public opinion and policies that can build upon the best of each model. They overlook the chance to combine the viable components of the “public” (i.e., state-directed) schools with the viable components found among the individualized, charter-directed schools.
Their attitudes reveal their failure to adjust to contemporary, science-based research that has clearly demonstrated the successes of many charter schools in meeting the educational needs of today’s students.
By providing the community with alternatives to the one-size-fits-most approach that characterizes the public-school model, charter schools fill the gaps that the larger system is unable to address — much like “holistic” healthcare does for “conventional” medicine. The alternatives they offer help families make the best possible choices for their children. For teachers whose unique expertise and abilities are not utilized in the typical school setting, charter schools can provide a setting that utilizes their gifts. And for the public, these schools offer flexible settings for developing variety and effectiveness in American educational models. They also support the democratic ideal of representation and choice within a coordinated system.
Charter schools are not going to disappear just because there are officials and “experts” bad-mouthing them like school-yard bullies — they are too valuable to us on a grassroots level. Rather than allowing public forums to continue to perpetuate narrow-minded and dismissive beliefs, it is time that we citizens insist that those in the field of public-funded education take an inclusive and cooperative approach that invites all educational contributors to bring their best to the table … and to the classroom.
— Grace E. Wormwood