Tuesday, December 7, 2010

City Schools Partnership with Charter Schools Represents Disturbing Trend

With the movie “Waiting for Superman” out in theaters, there’s been a lot of talk about charter schools. This is especially the case in Rochester, where everybody agrees that the local school district needs to improve. After all, it’s unacceptable for the district to have a graduation rate of under 50%. While there are some positive things that can be taken away from charter schools, they still represent a trend of privatizing education even though it definitely doesn’t guarantee better results and takes resources away from public schools.

In Rochester, the idea of having public funds go to charter schools is part of a larger trend of the public having less input in their local schools. After all, the private boards of these charter schools won’t have much public accountability much like how Mayor Duffy’s mayoral control proposal would result in the public having less input on those administering our schools. That is why there have been a lot of people expressing concern over the Rochester City School district’s decision to enter into a partnership with local charter schools.

Much like mayoral control is something that’s being pushed at the national level through people like Education Secretary Arnie Duncan, this partnership between public and charter schools is being sponsored by the business community at the national level. This particular program, for instance, is being pushed by the Gates Foundation. In other words, there are occasionally good things that come out charter schools, this is part of a process tends to serve the business world instead of what best serves our children.

What makes this situation worse is the fact that many of our leaders have bought into “Waiting for Superman’s” argument that charter schools are the solution to all our problems. This allows them to ignore the fact that there are plenty of other things that need to be done in order to help our students receive a better education.

We don’t hear mayoral control or charter school supporters talking too much about ideas such as expanding the school day and school year, providing more after school programs, making communities surrounding schools safer, and recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. Devoting resources to these programs instead of giving private boards public financing to run schools, however, are just some of the initial ways that we could work to improve our schools. And that is why I am very hesitant to support the Rochester City Schools’ decision to partner with charter schools.

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