An article titled “AACS opposes sale to charter school” in a recent edition of the Ashtabula Star Beacon was more of an advertorial for a public institution than a news story. That result should be no surprise considering the author’s interviews included only school board members and administrators within the district. These public employees are concerned that a charter school will take “their” money (a healthy number of taxpayers can certainly relate to having “their” money taken against their will). Taxpayers pay substantial sums of their earnings under the premise (promise?) of educating children, not to support a status quo bureaucracy.
To be clear, my wife and I are financial supporters of AACS (Ashtabula Area City Schools) by way of federal, state, and local taxes. We even voluntarily fund wrap-around services because children deserve to have the opportunity to succeed. We do this despite that fact that we home school and pay out of pocket for educational supplies while also sacrificing a second income. We make these sacrifices in order to provide the best possible education for our children. While we have that choice and can make that sacrifice, not all parents are as fortunate.
One would think that there would not be a market where the concept of choice would be more important than in a market that is compulsory. That is to say; if children shall be educated under command of law, then that funding should not be monopolized. Public funding for institutions of higher learning is not monopolized by the public sector. Students are able to use grant dollars to attend either public or private universities, and despite that, state schools retain the lion’s share of students and higher education flourishes in both sectors. Why then are primary and secondary school districts so afraid of letting parents and children decide what kind of education is best for them?
Charter schools, and the charters that they produce as their governing documents, pave the way for a more direct and transparent contract between the school and the parent. They permit teachers and parents to employ innovative strategies and disciplines that have been shown in many circumstances to better meet the needs of some students . . . strategies and disciplines that cannot be employed under the rigidity of centralization and top-down regulation. And while it is often cited that “Charter schools are not held to the same standards as public schools,” I would assert that for many parents, the fact that they are held to a different list of standards is precisely the point. Charter schools have the liberty to teach differently.
While the school board and administrators are concerned with keeping the education market as consolidated as possible for obvious reasons, I would suggest instead that they should embrace the importance of free-choice, of innovation, and of cooperation. Through an open dialogue and synergy, the district and charter schools could stand to benefit from one another, but more importantly, benefit the students that they serve.