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By Nina Rubin
With deepest respect to Amreeta Regmi, who obviously cares about public education, I want to respond to her factually flawed “Charter Crossroads” letter.
If I could correct only one thing in her letter, it would be Ms. Regmi’s sweeping statement that “charter schools are ‘special schools,’ neither public nor private, even though technically called public.”
That is breathtakingly incorrect. Every single charter school in the United States, without exception, is a public school, funded by taxpayer dollars. Period.
Indeed there is nothing “private” about a charter school. From the voluminous public petition submitted to launch a charter school to the rigorous reporting mechanisms they must follow to maintain their charter, these public schools are models of accountability. I challenge Ms. Regmi to show me a district school that is more transparent than a charter school.
And unlike district public schools, public charter schools that do not perform will be closed. Ms. Regmi, can you name a single district school that has closed because its academic achievement was below average?
Ms. Regmi says charter school academic performance does not exceed the state average. In fact Georgia’s independent startup charter schools have exceeded the performance of district schools. Eighty-three percent of first year charter schools in our state made AYP. Any school, public or private, that achieves like in year-one is doing something right! And here’s another surprise -- despite all cheating scandals and dysfunctional board politics, Atlanta Public Schools has a portfolio of charter schools that are outperforming its traditional schools.
So why are the GA School Superintendents Association, PTA, Georgia Federation of Teachers and and PAGE opposed to charters. I believe it’s about money and control, not about the best interests of families and children. These groups are invested in preserving their own bureaucracies and maintaining the status quo. The intensity of their opposition to HR1162 says to me that they are afraid of parents, afraid innovation and simply unwilling to change.
One thing Ms. Regmi and I do agree on -- charter schools are indeed at a crossroad in Georgia. If we don’t put the issue before the voters in the form of a Constitutional Amendment, opportunities for innovation and change will be silenced. Research shows that all forms of school choice have led to better academic outcomes for ALL students – the ones who attend charters and the ones who remain in public schools. What could possibly be wrong with letting parents have better options about how their taxpayer dollars are spent on education.
Nina Rubin is Director of G-PAN, (Georgia Parent Advocacy Network), a network of parent advocates. Ms. Rubin oversees the network's outreach to community, government, grassroots, philanthropic and public education leaders. The office is currently housed at the Georgia Charter Schools Association in Atlanta.