Regarding Linda Welborn’s March 26 Point of View “How money is corrupting charter schools”: Whether it’s the people we associate with, the food we eat or the news we read, the trend for the last 60-plus years has been for more diversity and more individual choice. The charter school movement is a part of that trend.
Charters were created to provide parents an alternative to the one-size-fits-all mentality that pervaded public education. Their diversity reflects this. There are charters that specialize in the arts, science and language immersion. There are charters whose mission is to lift struggling students and some that offer a more rigorous preparation for college.
Parents are the best evaluators of whether their child receives a good education. They must choose for their kids to attend a charter. To Welborn, a member of a traditional public school board, the parents of the 68,000 students already enrolled and the 44,000 more on waiting lists are bamboozled by “A+” marketing.” But they can pull them out if they are not satisfied. And some do. Yet 85 percent of charters have waiting lists. Are all these parents so easily fooled?
The fact is, the funds going to charter schools are very transparent. A special division of DPI, called the Office of Charter Schools, is dedicated to charter oversight, as is the Charter Schools Advisory Board. Charters must adhere to a lengthy charter contract with the state. They cannot even access their state dollars directly but must provide documentation before their bills are paid by the state. There are surprise visits by OCS consultants, an annual audit by a CPA firm and detailed review under the Financial Performance Framework Guide designed only for charter schools. They are subject to a host of laws and state and federal agencies. Nothing is going into “a black hole.”
Like Claude Rains in Casablanca, Welborn is “shocked, shocked” that people earn money providing education. Generations of educators, administrators and education suppliers have earned their daily bread educating children. If they do a good job, God bless ’em. They do important work. Good classroom teachers earn every dime they make and more. And if a company can front money for a facility, manage a school well enough that parents voluntarily send their children there and still make a profit with access to only 75 percent of the funds per-pupil as traditional schools, I say more power to them. We need every good school we can get.
Traditional public schools will be the overwhelming choice of parents. They are the core of our educational system and deserve our support. But we know that not every student learns the same way. We are better off when parents have a choice that meets their child’s individual needs. The advocates for traditional schools should welcome charters to relieve overcrowding and provide more educational opportunity, not attack them. Name-calling gets us nowhere.
Director of public relations and grassroots development, N.C. Public Charter School Association
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.