Charter Schools: Are They Good For Our Community?
In September a new school is scheduled to open in San Diego. It is called the Nubia Leadership Academy, which is known as a charter school. In 1992 California passed a charter schools act, and it became effective in September of 1993. The San Diego Unified School District currently has six charter schools with another scheduled to open by the fall of this year. It will open with 150 students ranging from Kindergarten to fourth grade, and will add a grade every year.
What is a charter school? It is a public school that receives state funds and must accept all applicants. It must be accountable for its curriculum, as well as meet clear academic standards. What makes it different is it has a contract that can be revoked if the school fails to make good on its commitments. Any public school can apply to become a charter school. A charter school has more freedom from state regulations and is operated by the community in which it is located.
Charter schools link parents, teachers, and children with a common goal and deliver what parents want most, a quality education for their children. It gives parents an opportunity to be involved in what their children learn. Charter schools are not governed by any school board; however, they may only be approved to open and operate by a school board, and must be renewed periodically by that school board. Public schools are not accountable because there are no consequences for failure.
The charter school was born out of the struggle against the unequal treatment given to certain races by the bureaucratic school systems. In 1968, a prototype was that of Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, New York. It created quite an uprising at the time and played a major role in the development of the charter school concept. Thirty years ago, so-called liberals attacked the bureaucracies for their distance from the schools and their inability to improve the achievements of minorities. The liberals also attacked the union for its narrow-minded leadership and felt that the union was more dedicated to the interest of teachers rather than students. Interestingly, today, conservatives support the charter school concept because they feel it will permit parents to start schools funded by the government that are free of local controls and operate more like private schools to improve the achievement of low income students.
Critics claim that charter schools will drain the regular public school systems of money, but as in higher education, shouldn't the money follow the student and not the school? Critics also complain that charter schools will take the best students and create elitism. A national study by the Hudson Institute showed that nearly two-thirds of the students in charter schools are minorities or disabled children who had not been well served by the regular public school system. Certain fears are raised about charter schools that community control will mean possible...