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On Charter Schools and School Choice - Where I Stand

When the notion of Charter Schools first crossed the mind of our legislature, the thought was that they would be engines of / laboratories for innovative new programs.  Each charter would have its own school board.  It would experiment with unique programs and share their successes with our more traditional public schools.

On the face of it, that would be great.  The fact is that that is anything but what has happened.  The  State loosened licensure requirements for teachers and administrators at these ‘innovative’ schools.  They lessened the high stakes testing pressure, too.  They reached into the pockets of our public schools and gave the Charters money for transportation and lunches, when they had no obligation to provide those services.  They even allowed them the flexibility to establish their own school calendars.

As an educator of some experience, I can tell you that there are good Charter Schools, OK Charter Schools, and some unsuccessful Charter Schools.  Just like our more traditional schools, our Charters can be more or less successful based on any number of factors.  But, unlike our public schools, mostly, people must find their own way to get their children to Charter Schools.  (Some Charter Schools do provide transportation.)  That lessens the possibility of economic and/or racial diversity in the schools.  Effectively this creates a de facto segregated school.

Too, research clearly shows that while there are innovative Charter Schools, our ‘traditional’ public schools are just as, if not more likely, to be innovative engines of school change.  We have Leader in Me Schools, Expeditionary Learning schools, A+ Arts Integration Schools, Magnet Programs and the like flourishing in the public school sector. 

Now our NC General Assembly wants to push our public charters more into the realm of private schools, mostly funded by your tax dollars.  How?  They have legislation that would allow corporations to sponsor these Charters with the caveat that they (the families in the corporation) would have first ‘dibs’ on placement for their children.  That is spite of the intent that Charters would use a lottery to determine student enrollment.

What does the General Assembly want?  I believe they want to privatize education.  This would be a violation of a State Constitution that requires the best, free public education for every child.  The efforts of the General Assembly are obvious to anyone who pays attention to such things.  They must be stopped. 

If elected to the State Senate, I would work to return our schools to the people.  I would empower our school boards to have more local control of the operation of our schools.  I would work to return our Charters to their original intent and demand that they demonstrate proof that they are innovative and have programs that need to be shared with our public schools.  I would require that their teachers all be properly licensed and that (since they are public schools) their teachers get paid on the  state standard (or better.)  In the meantime, our public schools will continue to serve the overwhelming majority of our children with innovative programs.

Charters should be as they were intended.  They should be out there to help parents have a viable option for their children.  They should meet the same demanding standards our traditional public schools must meet.

Bossert for State Senate
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