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Is Charter School The Solution To Our Failing Education System?
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What are charter schools and why are they becoming more popular? What are other preferences that parents and children have to select a good school outside of the public school system?

Just a brief background on charter schools—the Charter School Movement started in Minnesota in 1991 aimed at improving student achievement by providing quality education that is based on choice, as discussed in Education.com. Charter schools emphasize on parental preference—the belief that all parents have the right to choose where to send their child to learn. The schools are also opened by choice—keep in mind that depending on the founder of a charter school, they can be significantly different from one another, to reflect the goals and visions of the founder. More commonly, charter schools are established by teachers, parents, or advocates who are dissatisfied by the traditional public school system. Charter schools are publically funded and also receive private contributions. They are mostly primary and secondary schools, but are not subject to some of the mandates that public school districts have. The bottom line is that these founders are seeking education reform, to provide our children with what they consider as a “better” school.

When there are too much demand for a charter school, meaning there is not enough space to enroll all the children seeking admission, admission is frequently allocated using a lottery system. In other words, children seeking admission are randomly assigned a number. Then, the numbers are randomly picked—children with better “luck” will get to attend that school. Unfortunately, children who are not as lucky will have to go elsewhere, hoping they can find another good school. Charter schools are generally highly demanded, for example, Wikipedia reported that 59% of the charter schools in the U.S. have an admission waiting list averaging 198 children.

Not all charter schools are good, just like not all public schools are bad. Similarly, not all private schools are good either—just because the tuition is expensive, it does not mean that it is a great school. At a glance, it is easy to package and sell charter schools as great schools, especially in a time where we are desperately trying to provide our children with a great education to have a better life and future. One of the finest charter schools, Children’s Harlem Zone, was founded by Geoffrey Canada in a high-poverty neighborhood in New York. Mr. Canada’s vision, referred by the New York Times as “cradle-to-college” is the bedrock of this school that not only raises student academic achievement, but provides a well-rounded quality learning experience that builds a solid foundation for its students. Not all charter school founders share the same vision as Mr. Canada; hence, not all charter schools share similar qualities and attributes as the Children’s Harlem Zone. It was a pleasure to watch Mr. Canada on a recent documentary titled “Waiting for Superman” to hear him talk about this passion and vision.

Is charter school the answer to our failing education system? No, but it is an alternative and sometimes favored decision to make depending where you live and the type of public schools available. Maybe the local private school provides the best quality education for your child. Can you afford the tuition? The education system is flawed, we know that and it is easy to blame the system. But, as parents, it is our responsibility to acquire knowledge and information to make smarter decisions on where to send our children to school, and not simply to the school that we are assigned based on where we live. Parents do have choices, but many parents are not aware of (or familiar with) their rights in their children’s education. Therefore, it is essential for parents to get information to better equip themselves.


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