Comstock's magazine 0818 - August 2018 - Page 31

How would you assess the state of California’s charter schools today? The original intent of charters was to provide flexibility within the traditional public school system to engender and promote innovation. In that way, we have been successful over the last 25 years in expanding educational options within the California public school system. What we haven’t been as successful in is taking that innovation and pushing it out to the larger system. We were supposed to be little laboratories of innovation, and the hope was we would take our ideas and they would spread. It hasn’t done that as well, mainly because charters have become so politicized. The thinking seems to be that if you are for charter schools, you’re not for teacher unions. Or if you are for teacher unions, then you’re not for charter schools. That has unfortunately established a ‘them against us’ attitude, which does not help in that sense of collaboration and working together. What do you say to critics who contend that charters drain funds away from public schools? Charter schools are public schools, so saying that charter schools are taking away from the public school system doesn’t quite make sense. Charter schools are funded just like traditional school districts, based on per student attendance. It’s not taking funds out of the public school system; it’s a shifting of funds to a different type of school. The idea behind options and school choice is for parents to be able to choose. Those funds don’t belong to the school districts or to schools — they belong to the students. Critics say charters are not held to the same transparency and accountability standards as traditional public institutions. Is that actually the case? There is a mistaken belief that charter schools don’t have to do the same things as public schools, and that’s not true. We all have to report in the same way. It’s a balance: the flexibility of waiving some of the red tape versus the accountability piece. Ultimately, there was a trade-off. Without having to follow all of the education code and laws that apply to districts, the ultimate accountability for charter schools is that if you aren’t successful, if you aren’t making student growth, then you’re closed down. And that accountability doesn’t apply to traditional schools or traditional school districts. We have been successful over the last 25 years in expanding educational options within the California public school system. What we haven’t been as successful in is taking that innovation and pushing it out to the larger system. Research shows that charter student’s educational performance is on par with their counterparts in traditional public schools. What means do charter schools have to live up to the promise of ensuring kids a better education than they would get in a non-charter public school? There’s different ways to address that question. One is to ask ‘what is the measuring stick we are trying to use?’ Charter schools are supposed to be very different from the traditional system, and there are all kinds of charter schools in this state that serve many different kinds of student populations. In my school, for instance, we have a homeschool academy, a traditional elementary, a performing and fine arts academy, a virtual learning hybrid, a high school and our original middle school program that’s very focused on August 2018 | comstocksmag.com 31 How would you assess the state of Cal- ifornia’s charter schools today? The original intent of charters was to provide flexibility within the tradition- al public school system to engender and promote innovation. In that way, we have been successful over the last 25 years in expanding educational options within the California public school system. What we haven’t been as successful in is taking that innovation and pushing it out to the larger system. We were supposed to be little laboratories of innovation, and the hope was we would take our ideas and they would spread. It hasn’t done that as well, mainly because charters have be- come so politicized. The thinking seems to be that if you are for charter schools, you’re not for teacher unions. 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