Why I (generally) believe in charter schools

17 Sep

Reason #1: They give parents, even those who cannot afford private-schools, a choice.

What’s the big deal about choice? A school is a school. Sure, lets assume all academic considerations are equal. The school environment themselves will always be different. Whether its school size, class size, extra-curricular activities offered, elective courses offered, length of school day, length of academic calendar year, enrichment programs available, etc. We don’t have to engage in a discussion about facts and figures, graduation rates, proficiency scores, any of that. A child might do better in one environment than they would in another, and that is just choice.

Reason #2: They allow people who are not educators to educate.

This might seem wrong, but if we stop and think we would all agree (at times, emphatically) that not all trained educators are good educators. If given a classroom to lead, many professionals trained in other areas would prove to be at least as smart, imaginative, resourceful, committed, and engaging, as their Masters-in-Education plus New-York-State-Certification counterparts. Some people simply decide later in life that they want to work in education. Not only do most of my 20-something peers not have a clue as to what they want to do for the rest of their lives but I have known many folks in their 30s and 40s who are also still wondering. So… is it in the best interest of our children to foreclose experienced committed individuals from teaching because they didn’t decide to major in English Education when they were 18? Probs not.

Under the NYS charter schools law, up to 5 or 30% of teachers in a charter school may be uncertified. This would allow say writers, scientists and engineers, who have decided they want to teach, the opportunity to do so while they work on obtaining their certification. To become a principal at a NYD DOE public school, one must first procure a “Building Leadership Certificate.” One of the threshold requirements for this certification is three years of experience in teaching or otherwise working directly with students. Another, is the completion of a 24-credit Building Leader program. Those requirements would deter most people in mid-life who might be otherwise capable of executing the operational functions of a school from even considering the possibility.

Reason #3 They can be much more flexible and responsive than traditional public schools.

The NYC DOE dictates the structure of schools. Under the UFT-negotiated teacher’s contract, public school teachers may generally work only six hours and 20 minutes a day. Their day can begin no earlier than 8 am and end no later than 3:45 pm. Additionally, under the the DOE teacher’s contract, no teacher can be fired for incompetence or even impropriety without a hearing. These policies have led to situations such as this, where a teacher removed from his teaching post continues to earn a six-figure salary to make photocopies (even worse, the teacher claims in the comments that he has actually already been cleared of all charges).

Teachers are considered exempt employees under federal employment laws, just like lawyers, doctors, managers, and other professionals. Charter schools can extend their school day or year because they are not bogged down by time limitations or over-time or per session pay considerations. If a charter school finds a teacher to be ineffective or had committed some act in violation of school policies, they can be terminated on the spot.


they’re not perfect…


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