Charter Schools are on the rise across the country as America’s failing education system attempts new models to improve itself. For the most part, these Charter and Innovative schools are making a difference and improving graduation rates, test scores, and retention. Because of this there is a demand by parents for more charter schools.
Along with their success has come a backlash of lawsuits and legislation meant to slow their progress and in some cases terminate them altogether.
Reasons for these lawsuits range from civil rights violations, education equality violations, and even accusations of un-constitutional standards and requirements.
The instigators of these lawsuits are varied. Parents, Teacher’s associations, School Districts and the ACLU have filed complaints against charter schools. Now, the Black Lives Matter Movement is accusing them of propagating racial injustice. In the same way crime rates were reduced by the increased incarceration of black Americans, the NAACP and BLM believe that test scores in minority rich urban charter schools are being accomplished by increased suspensions and expulsions of black students.
Most explanations for the suits are financial. As the numbers of Charter schools continue to grow, money is diverted from traditional schools and, therefore, limiting their resources.
At a recent Conference on School Choice I attended, put on by the Franklin Center for Public and Government Integrity, the point was made by Ben Scafidi of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice that if the student is no longer in the school, it is no longer an expense of the school, so it is not costing the school anything if it loses funding.
A school board member with whom I am acquainted, says that this is a simplistic interpretation and not a real picture of the costs to traditional public schools in losses to their program funding.
Perhaps the lawsuits are more motivated by control issues between Teacher’s Unions, Districts and government entities all vying for their own education agenda. Whatever the reasons, there is a cost and the cost is the children. Money that would otherwise be used for supplies, teachers, curriculum and programs is spent on attorneys and court costs.
As Tim Keller, an attorney who represents charter schools for the Institute For Justice, and another speaker at the conference said, ”Charter Schools are here to stay”. It would make sense to accept this, and learn to work with them and not against them for the sake of our children.
The Denver Public Schools have made great strides because the district and charter schools are learning to work together and support each other’s efforts. As America continues to grow in cultural diversity, it is important that our educational system accept and embrace this change. One of the ways that it can do this is through charter schools that are better suited to the ESL population. These programs may not work in a more homogenized setting or curriculum, but only in the freedom allowed in the charter schools. Charter Schools by their nature have less regulations and can be more innovative in programs and curriculum.
The Strive Program in Denver is an example of how charter schools can meet the needs of the ESL segment of the community through curriculum created for them that integrates English learning.
If we really want to make America great, it begins with educating our children to be the best in the world. With only two countries in the world that outspend us on education per child there is no reason why we shouldn’t be the best educated in the world.
It is time to try a new model for learning. Perhaps the charter schools are leading the way. If only the naysayers and opponents would just give them a chance and end the lawsuits and legislation attempting to stop them.