Monday, September 24, 2012

Myths, Misconceptions about Charter Schools

The Charter School Amendment here in the Peach State is gearing up to be one of the hottest items on the fall ballot.

Gov. Deal approved HB 797, but that law hinges heavily on whether or not the state has the power to approve charter schools over local board objections. And that power can only come from a constitutional amendment, at least according to Georgia’s Supreme Court which argued that the state did not have the constitutional authority to over ride local school boards on this issue.

There exist many common myths and misconceptions about Charter Schools. Here are a few that I have heard repeatedly, which I hope to clarify and bust with this column.

The first myth is that “charter schools are not public schools” This of course is completely false. Teacher qualifications, standards, professional advancement and retirement, as well as all student expectations and requirements for advancement and graduation are identical. The only real differences between traditional public and charter schools are the methods and strategies employed to educate students; charters control their own budgeting and spending.

Myth number two is “charter schools are for the wealthier families.” I would agree that many wealthier families have been the first in support of the educational options that charter schools provide and were the first to enroll their children, but I now see that more and more students from across the socioeconomic spectrum are currently enrolling in charter schools and the trend is that charter schools populations are now recently becoming more representative of the demographics of their communities.

The third myth is “charter schools are a modern attempt at segregation of schools. I believe that all charters in the past have done their best to attract all students without any regard for ethnicity as is prescribed by law. In addition charters have actually done more than traditional public schools to close the achievement gap that exists between their student ethnic populations.

The fourth myth is “charter schools are the cause of the economic problems that schools are facing today” It is a fact that traditional public schools are losing students to charter schools thereby losing the state funding associated with that child. But they are also losing the cost and responsibility associated with educating that child as well.

The fifth common myth is that “you can not support both traditional public schools and charter schools.” I truly believe that this is also false. Georgia must do whatever it can to take care of its students & give the parents more options. We need to support creativity, innovation, and evolution in education. I don’t believe that it is “us or them” and that we have much more in common than we have differences.
The involved parents who care about their children’s education and the ones willing to make certain sacrifices in order to make that happen such as providing transportation and packing a lunch. Parents need to have other options or choices if the current school their child is attending isn't living up to standards.

Choosing a school or how to educate their children is the most responsible and involved thing a parent can do, and yet systems do all they can to block that avenue of responsibility.

Some Parents in Rural Georgia Counties are unhappy with the school their children are currently attending, passing this amendment will give them another avenue to explore in hopes of sending their children to a school that can best bring out their best talents.

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