Charter School Confusion
My colleague, Sarah Brodsky, blogged the other day about the recent efforts of Mayor Slay to acquire the authority necessary to approve new charter schools in St. Louis. She correctly pointed out that Charter schools are not an education cure-all, but nonetheless a step in the right direction. Today whilst trolling the blogosphere I happened upon this. Ignore the politico for a second and scroll down to the comments section for a lively debate about the merits of charter schools and the larger issue of SLPS. Here’s some of the objections you’ll find:
1) Charter schools are just another step towards public funding of private (religious) schools
2) Charter schools are poorly run, ineffectual, and potentially corruptable.
3) Mayor Slay is part of some deeper, more devious plot to undermine SLPS and institute some undisclosed master plan of a nefarious nature.
The first two objections may very well prove to be true, but we won’t know until we try. Nonetheless, these kinds of problems are exactly what careful public policy debate is intended to overcome. So, instead of listing objections and deciding a priori that Charter schools are a dead end, perhaps we should try and find ways to preserve the positive aspects of charter schools, like the choices they create for parents and students, and mininmize these potential negative factors. As for that third objection, well, I don’t really trust politicians either…
I can understand the strong feelings people may have towards the democratic values embodied in public schooling, but any fool can see that the system is broken and that it is time for something different. Charter schools may be part of this, and Mayoral involvement, as a recent SMI Study suggested, is crucial. However, by limiting debate to charter v. SLPS schools, we’re essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. At this point, all options should be on the table, and we shouldn’t let conspiracy theories get in the way of doing what’s best for kids.