Do you have charter schools in your area? Do you like them? What are the public schools in your area like? Do you feel like the charter schools in your area hurt the public schools in your area or complement them?
I generally feel fairly positive about charters because the ones I know of in our area — schools where some kids I know go — seem pretty good to me. Recently, though, I've learned about a new charter school that is trying to get started in our district and it would be run by an out of state for-profit company. I'm pretty liberal-leaning politically but now I'm reading a lot of comments from folks identifying as liberals who are opposed to charter schools in general and especially this one that would have the for-profit company behind it. The feeling is that it would siphon off tax dollars that could be better used in our district. There aren't many charter schools in our district (a couple of alternative high schools) and the charters I spoke of above that I'm familiar with are in neighboring districts. Our district is actually a very high performing district—a case could be made that it's the best system in the state—but there is an achievement gap between white students (who perform well above state averages) and minority students, particularly African American and Latino, who perform above state average, but not as high above average as whites.
I feel like charter schools can be a big benefit to individual students who need a little more specialized attention than they can get at public schools. My dd1 is a bit of a square peg and we have applied to a charter school in one of the neighboring districts for next year. It is not run by an out of state for profit company. It offers small classrooms and an arts and environmental emphasis. It's on a river and they have canoeing/kayaking as part of their PE program. They offer art and music, but no organized sports (not a problem for my kid). They offer foreign languages including Japanese and I really think it will be a great fit for my quirky kid. We were at a small crunchy private school prior to this year at public school just because dd1 really needed a small flexible environment. She does not do well in a highly structured environment (has a tendency to anxiety and a flexible approach works better for her). This year we've been at our local public school and while it's been okay she's struggling in areas that she hasn't before and is having some difficulty adapting to the rigidity that seems to be necessary for a public school to run efficiently. I hope she gets in the charter for middle school next year.
However, the case the folks opposed to charters seem to be taking is that by siphoning off the tax dollars and often the best/brightest students, or the students being underserved (in this case primarily the AA students) the charters serve to undermine the public school system. I'm not liking the idea of a for-profit company benefiting from my tax dollars—I can get behind opposing that—but I'm not clear about the reasons for opposing charter schools in general. I can see first hand how a charter school would benefit my quirky kid. I've not considered the tax and funding issues in depth before and I'm wondering if there are things I'm missing, or if there are things the opponents are missing.
I got an email today requesting I sign a petition to oppose this new charter and I'm just not sure about all that. Would love to hear MDC's thoughts on charters in general.