Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Tale of Two Schools: Charter Schools Claim to Offer a Solid Education to Children Whose Neighborhood Schools Are Failing, but They're Also an Admission That We've Given Up on Holding the Traditional School System Accountable

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Tale of Two Schools: Charter Schools Claim to Offer a Solid Education to Children Whose Neighborhood Schools Are Failing, but They're Also an Admission That We've Given Up on Holding the Traditional School System Accountable

Article excerpt

Whenever I visit a school, one question always guides me: Would I want my own child in this school? If it's good enough for my children, then it's a good school; if not, then it's a bad school. Plain and simple.

I've always applied my test in equal measure whether the school is a traditional public school, a charter school, a parochial school, a private school, or I even a home school. The standard should be the same, regardless of the structure of the school or who's paying the bills.

And that's part of why the charter debate is so difficult for me. Every child should have high-quality teaching every hour of every day. Ensuring that every child has an excellent education is good for this country, I which is why we should use public dollars to pay for education.

Many children in the United States are getting a better education today because they are enrolled in charter schools. That should be enough to make me happy, right?

But it's not.

In spite of the benefit to individual students, I still wonder whether charter schools are ultimately good for the country.

I worry that charter schools are another factor that's harming American neighborhoods, especially in our cities. Whether intentional or not, charters send a message that families can't expect a good education in their own neighborhood and that their expectations should be worse if the neighborhood is in an urban location. Overwhelmingly charters have been allowed, even encouraged, to operate as magnet schools that draw children away from neighborhood schools and into often unfamiliar and relatively distant locales. Those students have no connection to these communities except the school building. They don't walk to school under the watchful eye of a nosy neighbor. They don't attend the same school as neighbor children. Their parents can't easily travel to their school or commiserate with other parents at the local grocery store or church. …

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