Charter schools not a panacea for schools’ woes

Published 10:50 pm Friday, March 23, 2012

On the surface, the concept of charter schools is an appealing one.

If taxpayers and parents are unhappy with the performance of public schools, they can petition for state funding to start alternative schools – charter schools – to provide their children the quality education they expect.

In reality, it’s a much murkier issue.

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As the Alabama Legislature debates a bill to allow for the formation of charter schools throughout the state, educational system leaders are lining up to offer an alternative point of view.

While the always vocal and often polarizing Alabama Education Association is coordinating a “Save Our Schools” protest rally in opposition to the measure, local leaders are speaking out as well. Their concerns are simple: Charter schools would siphon much-needed funding from the public school systems already in place in Pike County

Both the Pike County Schools and the Troy City Schools are performing above state averages and minimums. Neither are considered “failing,” which was once the benchmark for charter school consideration. But both have room for improvement, as all districts do, and the leaders recognize this.

The concern, however, is that already-reduced state funding coupled with the diversion of funding to charter schools could prove crippling to efforts to improve and grow our public schools.

And that would be a shame.

Public schools are the backbone of a community, and one of the first things potential transfers consider before moving into an area and one of the key factors that play a role in keeping – or losing – people in a community. Strong public schools educate tomorrow’s leaders and workforce, preparing them to have productive careers and lives in whatever area they choose. Strong public schools have the support of parents, of community leaders, of business leaders.

We rarely find ourselves aligning with the AEA on political issues, but in this case we agree that the charter school legislation is flawed. We believe legislators should be finding ways to invest more money in our successful public schools – and putting in place measures to allow them to become more effective – rather than opening the floodgates for diversion and distraction.

Charter schools have a place and a role in our society, but this legislation isn’t a panacea for improving Alabama’s educational system.