To the Editor:
I write in response to the article “The Evolution of the ‘Chartered School’” (June 8, 2016). While the reporting was insightful in its review of the key elements of the 25-year-old charter school movement, it did not recognize the fundamental motivation and appeal of charter schools (as well as private school vouchers) that some minority parents living in poverty have expressed to me over the three decades of my education career: separatism.
In Indiana, where I was a K-12 school superintendent prior to my recent retirement, the frustration over low achievement among students living in poverty, especially minority students, has fueled the legislative effort to provide a means for impoverished minority parents to choose school options that allow for their children to be separated from students who are disruptive, threatening, or who otherwise inhibit learning or do not practice “acceptable” religious beliefs.
Supporters and enablers of school choice believe that efforts should be made to “save” those students who are willing to behave and who demonstrate a school work ethic that will lead to grade-level achievement and college readiness. Impoverished minority parents interested in charter and voucher schools know that such schools will not acceptstudents who inhibit or obstruct instruction.
The flaw of the charters and choice movement is that the most disruptive, noncompliant underachievers are being left without appropriate support prior to, and after, entering traditional public schools. What Indiana legislators and proponents of charter schools refuse to do, in my experience, is provide existing urban public schools with the resources to overcome early-childhood disadvantages of poverty along with alternative schools for the most disruptive, threatening, and resistant of student learners.
Instead of addressing these core issues, legislators avoid them and simply provide a means for parents to flee to charter or voucher schools that are most often no better equipped to educate students than the public schools such students have left behind. As a result, so called “good” charter or voucher schools and “bad” public schools are more and more reflective of who their students are, rather than the type of school or the quality of its teaching.
Crown Point, Ind.
A version of this article appeared in the August 03, 2016 edition of Education Week as Separatism Creates Binary View of Schools