Monday, July 4, 2016

What Is a Public Charter School?

We see this term used more and more often, by candidates for elective offices and by charter schools. Let’s look into what is meant by a ‘public’ charter school and I put the word into quotes because logic tells us if there are public charter schools then that is in distinction from non-public charter schools.

(Let me confess at the outset that I doubt the term has any meaning at all. It is a reflection of the ongoing attempt by charter school chains to present themselves as public schools. Why, I cannot imagine, since charter schools trumpet their superiority over public schools in their promotional campaigns and political machinations.)

(However, political candidates are trying to steer an impossible course between charter school advocates and defenders of traditional public schools by saying that they support PUBLIC charter schools but not all charter schools. It’s time to call upon them to clarify what they mean.)

A charter school is a public school of choice that operates under the terms of a charter, or contract, with an authorizer, such as the state and local boards of education.” (Georgia Department of Education, General FAQs) (Emphasis mine.)

Varying versions of this definition are put out but they all have the same essential point: a charter school, by virtue of its charter, its authorizing governmental body, and state laws is a public school.

But then, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools features this mission statement on its website ( "We are working to grow the number of high-quality charter schools available to all families, especially those who do not have access to high-quality public schools."

Wait, what? Charters AREN’T public schools because they exist as an alternative to public schools?

From their website, here’s some more:
Charter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Because they are public schools, they are:
·         Open to all children;
·         Do not charge tuition; and
·         Do not have special entrance requirements.
Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit.”

So many issues, so little time. For starters, traditional public schools have gotten a ton of accountability but not the freedom to do what they think is best. That has been taken away. Second, when will you publish your Lessons Learned report for the benefit of the ‘broader public school system?’ I’m working through your website. Can’t find it.

Anyhow, I’m maintaining this question as an open question for anyone to answer. I have three specific groups in mind: charter schools (although I think the above has answered the question I will keep an open mind), politicians, and you.

I’m contacting places with a simple request: Can you tell me what you mean by ‘public charter?’ The answers will be illuminating.