I was recently asked about my opposition to charter schools. I’m not opposed to charter schools as they were originally intended to exist. The original intent of charters was to operate outside the red tape and bureaucracy that traditional public schools face. As a public high school administrator, I’ve often had my hands tied.
Charter schools were originally designed to work with students who were difficult to educate for multiple reasons. They were allowed to try new methods and strategies that were not available to traditional schools. Educating students with learning disabilities, behavior issues or students who are not interested in the traditional path of education was and still is the admirable goal of many charter schools. My opposition is not with these types of charters; my issue is with the type of charters that have come into Lafayette Parish, the type often referred to as “predatory charters.”
These are the charters that pose as open admission schools. By requiring parental volunteer hours, expensive school uniforms, no free or reduced lunches, limited or no services to handicapped students and no bus transportation, they are in essence excluding many students. These are the charters that are designed to produce profits for CEOs and stockholders. They are not interested in what is best for the residents of Lafayette, only in financial gain. Their profit will result in segregation, the demise of our local public schools and the ever-increasing flow of local tax dollars out of state. Their entry into Lafayette Parish was not approved by local voters or the school board, but through a biased BESE. Follow the money!
I would welcome charter schools into Lafayette that could make a real difference for our community. The state’s new Jumpstart program, providing alternative paths to many of our students, is long overdue. We began to get rid of vocational education 30 years ago when the emphasis on college preparation and testing for all began to consume us. Charters that would operate as vocational schools designed to prepare many of our students for high-paying jobs without the bureaucratic red tape would really be “educational reform.”
But let’s face it: These types of charters, although highly beneficial to the local community, would not produce great profits or high test scores. Therein lies the problem. We need to be able to see the forest and not be distracted by the trees. Remember, the luxurious casinos of Vegas were paid for by disappointed gamblers!
A final thought: Our local private and parochial schools also will be impacted by predatory charters.