Even More on Charter Schools
by James P. Neimeir
It is important to keep the debate about improving quality education alive and heated, however it is important to give the public facts rather than assumptions.
In Max Grundy’s article in last week’s Artvoice, he uses assumptions to argue that charter schools are not the answer. While I agree that charter schools are not the “silver bullet” solution to our education crisis, I do believe that they offer many of the qualities that Grundy argues are important to improving the quality of education in our city schools.
It is incredibly important to debunk myths about charter schools if we want to use best practices from charter schools. The most fundamental arguments in Max Grundy’s article were untrue and dangerously misleading.
Grundy argues that charter schools are exclusive in admission. That is simply false. Charter schools accept students blindly, and when the number of applicants exceeds the number of seats in the school, a waitlist forms. A random lottery for admission into a school is only selective if the alternative is a significantly less preferable option, and families feel like they have “lost” an opportunity by not attending a charter school. Charter schools cannot screen for anything, including academic achievement or learning disabilities. Our best public high schools in Buffalo, however, do screen and are perhaps the most exclusive schools in the city: City Honors, for example.
The most misleading argument that Grundy makes is that charter schools are for-profit and aligned with banking interests. Public education is the third-largest for-profit special interest in the country and second in the state. From school vendors, cafeteria food, textbooks, to the number of employees in the system, each of these players is profiting off of public education. Buffalo’s public school students are the most expensive in the state, though some of the lowest performing and least likely to graduate from high school. Students are the only group not profiting off of public education.
Grundy makes an argument for charter schools in the last few paragraphs of his article. Perhaps he too, like most people, would like to see dramatic change in public education, but is too heavily influenced by the many myths around charter schools and education reform.
It is important to note that Grundy makes his case against charter schools using assumptions and anecdotal evidence. In order to address the real problems with charter schools and traditional schools, we must debate with factual and comparative information. Misleading articles like Grundy’s promote petty adult fighting. Instead, we should focus on good schools and bad schools. Parents are sending their students to charter schools because they feel that they are better for their children. Parents do not care that the school is either a charter or traditional public school; parents want their kids to go to good schools.
James P. Neimeier, Buffalo President of the board of South Buffalo Charter School.
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