Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why We Must Oppose Charter Schools: Malik Green

Why We Must Oppose Charter Schools

By Malik Green

May 25th, 2010

While charter schools like Harlem Success Academy have many positives, author says overall, charter schools should be opposed

[Comment: On Charter Schools]

Over the last decade, charter schools have been receiving a lot of attention and a lot of accolades for their “so-called” ability to provide a better education for many children. They have become so popular that President Obama has allocated $5 billion in education grant to states that encourage or promote charter schools.

The administration has even resorted to a little arm twisting to get states to create more charter schools. Hence the words of Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan: “States that don’t have charter school laws, or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools, will jeopardize their application. Simply put, they put themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the largest pool of discretionary dollars states have ever had access to.”

Parents need to ask themselves, why such a push for charter schools--why are we not fixing the public schools we have already? The reason for this is because it is not about educating our children, it is about money. More on this later.

The proponents of charter schools accentuate only the positive aspects of these schools; however, there are some negative aspects to these schools that need to be addressed. Personally, I am not a proponent of charter schools for a number of reasons.

Before I state my reasons why I am not in favor of replacing public schools with charter schools, I want to be fair and mention the benefits that charter schools do provide. Many charter schools have smaller class sizes than most public schools; this allows teachers to give more attention to each child’s growth and development.

Charter schools are able to have more control over the teachers and their quality of work. This gives the school the ability to easily remove teachers who are not performing or who are ineffective in educating our children. Though the data is inconclusive, charter schools proclaim that their students score higher in math and reading than children from public schools. However, other studies show charter schools having only a moderate or indistinguishable increase in math and reading scores over traditional public school students.

Charters are also much easier to shut down if children are not learning, unlike traditional public schools that continue to exist indefinitely regardless of student performance. In my opinion this is really not a benefit because if a charter school has to close due to incompetence, what happens to the children. They have to start all over again some else. This is definitely not fair or helpful to the students.

Now let us turn our attention to the flip-side of the charter school movement. In my view, there are two major reasons why African Americans and other people of color should reconsider charter schools in their communities. We must open our eyes to the negative ramifications of these charter schools.

Firstly, charter schools divide a community, and in the African American community, the last thing we need is more division among our people. By creating numerous charter schools throughout the African American community, we are depriving our children the opportunity to bond with one another. School is where children form relationships with other children in their neighborhood.

The fact that only a small number of children; in comparison the number of children in a certain community, are accepted into these charter schools is divisive and borders on elitism. This alienates the children who are not accepted. I heard of many parents crying when they discovered that their child did not win the lottery, which is the standard process for getting your child into a charter school.

There was one incident where 3000 applications were submitted for approximately 350 available slots for a specific charter school. How do you think parents; not the mention the children, feel when they learn that they are not going to be able to attend a school that offers hope of a quality education. I know what they feel. They feel hurt, they feel unworthy, and they feel resentment.

This is divisive to a community that is already lacking unity and togetherness. I am a strong believer that children who work and play together build stronger relationships with each other.

My second problem with charter schools is the fact that we, African Americans, are letting those who are responsible for a quality public school system off the hook for their failures to deliver the quality education our children need and deserve.

The PTA has long been the established route for parents to have input and an impact on their children’s education. African Americans have failed in this regard. This is why many African Americans are proponents of charter schools. It lets them off the hook for inefficiencies and lack of commitment to their children’s education.

African American communities must develop strong and united leadership that will be able to hold those who are responsible for our children’s education accountable. Whether it is an elected official or a community leader, we must demand that they address the need for quality education for all of our children, or else be removed. The old saying is: “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

Another negative aspect of charter schools that is being ignored is the reality that the already failing public schools in our communities will loose more and more funding to the charter schools. This in turn, will further decimate an already dysfunctional school system. Meaning that the children, who are not able to go to a nice charter school, will be forced to accept an inferior education; thus, an inferior quality of life. No one child is better than any other child is. They all deserve a level playing field and an equal opportunity at success and a decent quality of life.

The main reason why many African American parents are proponents of charter schools is statistical data; though inconclusive, shows that perform better than public schools. Charter schools were initially created in to serve the poorest of the low-income students, which is another way to describe many African Americans and other people of color.

In reality, however, charter schools only accept small percentages of low-income kids. Also, the very rarely accept extremely high risk, high need, or challenging students. This may be the reason for their great, though questionable, statistical numbers. Many people look at the children who are benefitting from charter school and neglect to mention the hopelessness of those who are not able to attend a charter school.

The following scenario helps validate my point: In the city of Los Angeles, View Park Preparatory High School, for example, is a charter school located in predominantly black community. The current graduation rate of the traditional public schools in this community is under 50percent. View Park Preparatory High School claims to have graduated every senior for three consecutive years, and the entire class has been accepted to college.

This school has a population of about 400 students. While everyone is running around praising charter schools, the students of traditional public schools are suffering. Since not everyone can go to a charter school what are we to do with the rest of our children?

The answer to this question is: Stop trying to solve this country’s education problems with a band-aid. The education of a human being is so important that there is a direct correlation between education and quality of life. Because education is so important, we cannot allow any of our children to be sacrificed by phony political leaders and their phony sidekicks – the so-called community leaders. They are in it for the money.

Our tax dollars are used to fund public schools. The administrators of these schools, such as, the Board of Education, community school boards, and Parent Teacher Associations are either incompetent or uncaring. If all three of these bodies were doing their job the right way, there would be no need for charter schools.

African Americans must become proactive in regards to the goings-on in their communities. Stand up and fight for what is right. Stop listening to the phony politicians and others who are selling us a bag of bones in regards to our children’s well being. If billions of dollars are allocated every year towards education, how come our children are failing? Is it because of incompetence, greed, lack of accountability, or is it the fact that those who are supposed to look out for us don’t really give a damn about us.

Let's rethink this charter school thing, because it is not all that it seems to be.

Malik Green is the author of "The Black Print-Black America's Blueprint for Achieving Wealth, Prosperity and Respect" See

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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