But with the number of Charter schools in the district growing, there’s little bad news and plenty of good news.
Charter schools offer parents three things that district schools can’t.
The first two are school choice and smaller schools.
School choice means parents don’t have to cheat and use phony addresses to get their children into better performing schools.
Meanwhile, the school district considers parents who do that as criminals even to the point of exploring the idea of filing charges against parents for the “crime” of wanting a better education for their children.
And every year the district sends out its boundary police to nab those dastardly, cheating parents and force children back into dumbed down schools.
Not to be totally unfair to the school district, even though I still think district run charter schools is a bad idea, it tells me that somebody in the district is thinking outside the box when it comes to school choice and (hopefully) accountability.
Kudos for that.
Today, school size isn’t the issue it was ten years ago, before class size took effect. But it’s not completely resolved, either.
Back then, about 1,200 children were being shoehorned into elementary schools built for 675, 2,200 into middle schools built for 1,100, and 4,000 into high schools built for 2,700.
Today, elementary schools are at about 800, middles are at about 1,700 and high schools are at about 3,500 thanks to the building of new schools and permanent classroom additions (which the Swiss Cheese report insists never happened.)
But I stress that the issue is not completely resolved simply because the schools are still to large when compared to charter schools.
Most charter schools throughout the county have student populations of anywhere between 250 and 500 which is much closer to ideal.
The third and most important of all is accountability.
Unlike district run public schools, charter schools that can’t make the grade (pun absolutely intended) close their doors for good.
A perfect example was North Lauderdale Charter High School.
$5 million in debt with declining enrollment, the school closed its doors at the end of my first year as a Board member.
Yet schools like Coral Springs Charter, Charter Schools of Excellence and Charter Schools USA thrive.
Unlike public schools, FTE dollars follow the student and not the school defined by boundary.
The rumored case against charter schools (since they were first being proposed fifteen years ago) was that the schools can take the FTE dollars and then eject a student back into public schools.
Essentially, they’re in it to take the money and run. Not quite.
Fifteen years later, such a case has yet to be documented, let alone a definable pattern of abuse.
The other argument is that charters underpay teachers.
As if the teachers union contract doesn’t do that anyway.
But there’s no reason why good charter school teachers can’t be paid more and rise faster than those in public schools.
If you think it’s all about money in charter schools, the answer is; you’re darned tootin’.
And that puts it squarely in the interest of keeping the school performance high and new parents lined up outside the door every summer to get their children registered.
And if registration is so desirable that it has to be done through a lottery, so much the better.
It will also guarantee good teachers will get paid what they’re worth while bad teachers will be out the door in a heartbeat.
No more years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get rid of bad teachers and no more boundary police hounding parents.
It also means that parents will know their children are getting a good education, raising the likelihood that they’ll get involved in the school, too.