By Amanda Dolce, SED 2016
It’s not hard to find complaints regarding today’s educational system. Any newspaper, news channel, or overheard conversation can tell you that. As a result of this unrest, society has crafted several proposal and theories to test different ways to better our education system and thus better our children. One of these proposals is the use of charter schools.
What is a charter school? The term has become a hot word in debates but for most, the term, and the frenzy surrounding it, remains unclear. A charter school is a public school that is funded independently by a private group, or many groups. Theses groups are given a charter to venture out and design their own public school. As a result, the charter schools have much more autonomy in whom they hire to teach, what they teach, and how they teach it. To some, these new independent schools are sources of experimental hope, while to others they are a waste of time and resources.
Those who support charter schools view them as a chance to experiment. Much like a science experiment in a lab, charter schools can theorize the best education practices, test them, and then analyze the results. Some say this is a great way to discover what can help improve education. Once they find these conclusions they can be applied to the larger public school system. Others praise charter schools for the savior role they play. Many parents and teachers support charter schools because they view them as a superior alternative to the norm. For instance, some parents in low-income Harlem, New York are thankful for charter schools because they fear the neighborhood public schools their students would otherwise have to attend. They like the choice to go elsewhere; they feel charter schools give them some control in their fate. They see charter schools as a blessing.
To others though, it is a curse. Opponents express anger over the whole movement. Some argue that the money invested in the few charter schools should be invested in the whole public school system. This way, they argue, the money will help all children, not just the students in the charter school. Similarly, opponents feel that changes need to be made for all, not just the few students who are picked out of the lottery. If charter schools are better, why should only a few be served? Further, those against charter schools argue that test results indicate that most charter schools are performing at the same level or below public schools. A crucial criticism of charter schools is that they are simply a fad that is distracting from the real problems in public education.
As with most educational topics, there are two strong sides to the charter school debate. Time will tell whether they are indeed a fad or a solution to our problems. As future educators, this, long with others, is a debate worth looking into and figuring out where we personally stand.
Check out these quotes about charter schools and then find your own voice! (From Intellectual Takeout)
“I don’t mean to imply that charter schools by themselves are the solution. But by freeing education entrepreneurs from regulations and letting them hire the best teachers—‘certified’ or not—they can rescue at least a few kids from America’s flunking educational system.”
-Edwin J. Feulner Ph.D., Charter Schools Are Smarter Schools, The Heritage Foundation, August 14, 1998
“And what about the kids who are not motivated to apply to special schools where they will have a special learning experience? Will charter schools help us do a better job of educating all our students – which is what we must do if we are to salvage public education? Or are they an escape valve to keep those who are dissatisfied from deserting the system.”
-Albert Shanker, Where We Stand: Questions About Charters, New York Times, December 18, 1994
*Amanda Dolce is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying special education.