The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 15, 2012

Charter schools legislation must be judged by its classroom results

Associated Press

The Tuscaloosa News on charter school results:

Legislators and lobbyists will be doing battle over charter schools as the legislative session rolls along. Let’s hope the adversaries don’t lose sight of why the state has public schools in the first place. But children and their education have long played second fiddle here.

Republicans are selling charter schools as a thinking-outside-the-box solution to the problems facing public education. They point to successful examples where charter schools are proven to get more out of public education dollars.

The idea that children can be educated better and more efficiently than they often are in public schools is nothing new. Private schools usually achieve better results with far less money. Public school proponents say it isn’t fair to compare private schools to public schools because public schools are tasked with educating disadvantaged students that private schools don’t deal with.

That is partly true. But any private school educator can attest to the fact that not all of the children who walk in their doors are little Einsteins. They get their share of rebellious, unmotivated children.

In the end, private schools are the only comparison the public has. Even if the comparison isn’t a fair one, it is an indicator that there’s another way to educate children. The hope is that charter schools can create a blending of what private schools do well with the public school mission. Rep. Phil Williams’ idea to put charter schools only in underperforming districts is a way to test whether charter schools can make an impact where they’re most needed.

The Alabama Education Association is adamantly opposed to charter schools. But it hasn’t offered much of an alternative. Mostly, it just seems to want the public to spend more on something that most people agree isn’t working well enough.

AEA and other public education proponents claim that money, or the lack of it, is the problem. More money will equate to better education. But they seem unable to do two things. First, they fail to cite concrete examples where money has solved education’s ills. And second, they seem completely unable to come up with the magic number. They never seem to answer the question, how much is enough? ...

Charter schools legislation should ultimately be judged by its results in the classroom.