Regarding the May 23 Point of View “Charter school negatives adding up”: The Durham Association of Educators writer afforded an opportunity to take narrative license and multiply five of his “negatives” and provide a positive product for North Carolina parents and students.
1. “In an attempt to receive more public funding (for charters) ...” True, charters are seeking fair funding. They do not receive funds for facilities and must stretch taxpayer dollars. Additionally, local districts even prevent money for the classroom to follow the child to charters because they, albeit legally, withhold $30 million annually in certain sales taxes, reimbursements, indirect costs and other funds from charters.
2. “Charters have strayed far from the intent of the original legislation.” True again in the sense that the framers of the law in 1995, including Durham’s own Sen. Wib Gulley, likely never expected such broad popularity, even with the suppression of the movement by the 100-school cap that hovered over expansion for 15 years.
3. The writer argued that charters have developed and are competing with “traditional public schools and one another for market share.” Absolutely true. With this summer’s cohort of schools, we’ll have approximately 162 schools with 75,000 students in the classrooms and another disappointed 55,000 waiting outside. Eighty-five percent of charters have wait lists. Of the 13 schools opening this summer, 11 already have over 100 percent enrollment applications!
4. “And they don’t compete on a level playing field.” True again. It was mentioned that charters have been underfunded. They also have stronger accountability because they have several layers of financial, governance and operational oversight. Each charter is audited independently versus districts, in which many schools are bundled under one system audit. And the author is correct when he asserts that charters can “tailor their mission” and don’t have to be education cafeterias. Remembering that parents are the customers, charters can specialize and be that “Italian restaurant” if that is to the family’s taste. Charters have academic floors, under which they are closed. Districts have no such safeguards.
5. A final negative is offered by the author’s rhetorical question, “So, I have to ask, what value do they add?” Answer: See numbers 1 through 4!
Executive director, NC Public Charter Schools Association
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response.