You can’t fix schools by aban­don­ing them

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

You can’t fix some­thing that is bro­ken by aban­don­ing it. A car that breaks down on the side of the road won’t re­pair it­self. If you want the car to run again, you have to give it the re­pairs it needs.

The same is true when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion.

When the first char­ter schools were cre­ated in this coun­try, the in­ten­tion was for them to be places where ed­u­ca­tors could ex­per­i­ment with new meth­ods of teach­ing to see how they could make gains in tra­di­tional public schools.

But in­stead of help­ing to im­prove tra­di­tional public schools, char­ter schools be­came a way for a hand­ful of select stu­dents to es­cape un­der­per­form­ing or trou­bled public schools. And while those few kids may have got­ten a chance at a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, the vast ma­jor­ity of kids in those schools got left be­hind.

Fur­ther­more, there is no guar­an­tee that char­ter schools will per­form any bet­ter than tra­di­tional public schools.

Re­searchers at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for Re­search on Ed­u­ca­tion Out­comes con­ducted two sep­a­rate stud­ies com­par­ing the re- sults be­tween char­ter schools and tra­di­tional public schools in twenty-six dif­fer­ent states. What they found was that nearly seventy per­cent of char­ter schools per­formed the same or worse than tra­di­tional public schools.

Even the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has re­peat­edly found that char­ter schools do not show test re­sults that are mean­ing­fully bet­ter or worse than tra­di­tional public schools.

But let’s as­sume for the sake of ar­gu­ment that char­ter schools did per­form bet­ter than tra­di­tional public schools. Wouldn’t it make the most sense to then take what’s work­ing in the char­ter schools and start do­ing that in the tra­di­tional public schools so that ev­ery child can re­ceive the ben­e­fit?

The rea­son that doesn’t hap­pen is be­cause the point of char­ter schools isn’t to fix fail­ing public schools; it’s to aban­don them.

The whole idea be­hind char­ter schools and the school choice agenda is that some public schools can’t be fixed, so the only so­lu­tion is to give a hand­ful of kids a new school and leave the rest of the kids stuck in the fail­ing school (but now with even fewer re­sources be­cause thou­sands of dol­lars will be taken away from the fail­ing school and given to the char­ter school).

Well, I don’t ac­cept that kind of think­ing. I still be­lieve that Amer­ica is sup­posed to be the land of op­por­tu­nity. So, for me, giv­ing up on any kid is sim­ply not an op­tion.

When we give up on our kids, what we are re­ally giv­ing up on is our fu­ture.

Our econ­omy de­pends on the qual­ity of our public ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. When we re­cruit busi­ness and in­dus­try to Alabama, those busi­ness lead­ers want to know that our work­force has the train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion to do the jobs they will bring.

Ex­ist­ing busi­nesses also rely on the public schools to pro­vide an ed­u­cated work­force. With­out our public schools, most lo­cal em­ploy­ers wouldn’t be able to stay in busi­ness.

And it is a well-es­tab­lished fact that the bet­ter ed­u­cated a per­son is, the more likely they are to find a good­pay­ing job that sup­ports their fam­ily, and the less likely they will be to end up in prison or liv­ing off the tax­pay­ers through gov­ern­ment wel­fare.

So mak­ing sure that ev­ery child has the op­por­tu­nity to be ed­u­cated to their fullest po­ten­tial is es­sen­tial for the safety and eco­nomic se­cu­rity of us all. And we can’t ed­u­cate ev­ery child to their fullest po­ten­tial when we choose to aban­don schools in­stead of fix­ing them.

Char­ter schools, then, are clearly not the an­swer. We all pay our taxes; there­fore, all of our kids should re­ceive a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Rep. Craig Ford rep­re­sents Gads­den and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He served as the House Mi­nor­ity Leader from 2010-2016.

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