Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Sophomore Speech

Every year, the high school sophomores have to undertake the herculean task of writing a persuasive essay and speech on some hot topic. In years past, the sophomores would take the same side of the issue in both the essay and the speech. This year, in a move I wholeheartedly applaud, they are tasked with doing both sides of the issue. That means, for example, a sophomore will do a 5-minute speech on why teens should have access to birth control and submit an essay on why teens should not have such access. Or maybe someone will speak in defense of creationism while writing an essay pooh-poohing it.

That's the backdrop for my post today. In my local town, there is an effort to get a new charter school up and running by the start of the 2013-14 school year. Many have put a lot of time, energy and money into starting the school, which will ultimately be a pre-K through 8th grade but will start out going only as high as 6th grade the first year. There are also quite a few people in town who are putting a lot of time and energy into making sure that charter never opens its doors.

I find myself squarely in the middle. Maybe a better analogy is I find myself on the sidelines, watching the back and forth like I would watch a match-up of two soccer teams filled with players I know. I like some of the players on each team. I also detest a few of the players on each. I have an eligible player of my own who could play on either team. Deciding which team to put him on is not easy.

Why I Support the Charter School Effort

  1. The local school district has, through incompetence or sheer negligence or pure evilness, refused for years now to allow a particular school to offer differentiated instruction much like the curriculum being touted now for the new charter. I can't stress that enough: this is not a new thought. This was raised as far back as 2003.
  2. The local school district board of trustees and many of the district staff have made colossal mistakes and mismanaged issues to the detriment of my children and other children in the district.
  3. This same cast of characters has made boneheaded missteps in the human relations arena and show no sign of making them right.
  4. While my children will be "just fine," thanks to having college-educated parents who are involved and care, I really don't want a "just fine" education. I want a great education for my kids and all kids.
  5. One middle school is woefully overcrowded and the other is heavily weighted down -- yes, I use the term "weighted down" -- by English learners and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
  6. It is open to every single solitary student residing in this district. Anyone can choose to send their child there (assuming capacity equals demand).
  7. The law of the land says charter schools can be created, and so if folks want to start a charter school, they should be allowed to do so.
  8. The tax monies will merely shift from the district to the new charter school, following the child. 

Why I Oppose the Charter School Effort

  1. Like the by-lottery elementary school many of the supporters hail from, the farther one lives away from it, the harder it will be for the socioeconomically disadvantaged kids to attend.
  2. And, like with the by-lottery elementary school, with a greater number of wealthier families attending, other schools will end up with greater numbers of the needy and English learners.
  3. If the numbers are to be believed and 400 or more students leave the district to attend the charter, then an elementary school will surely have to be closed, which will cause those at the closed school to travel farther to their new neighborhood school.
  4. Teachers will lose their jobs with the district.
  5. No amount of outreach to minorities will make a difference in increasing the number of ESL and minority students. I've witnessed what the by-lottery school did in its outreach efforts, and the fact is it could never get any sizable number to attend. (And I totally mean ESL, Hispanics and African-Americans. Like the UC system, I'm not worried about the Asians.) [And, yes, that'll come back to bite me in the butt.]
  6. The purpose of the charter school law, we all know it whether or not we admit it, at its most basic, is to help the underserved. The people signing up for this school and the people behind the movement are decidedly not the underserved.
  7. We're supposed to all be in "this" together. Public schools for the public good. Creating this charter school and leaving the rest to boost those with the greatest need is so selfish.
That didn't help. I guess I'm going to stay a fence-sitter. I might very well be the only one.


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