Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Charter Schools and Choices

Debates and policy decisions concerning public education continue to pervade the discourse on students’ levels of achievement and failure. Issues related to the role charter schools have become increasingly central to the discussions.

Sam Dillon’s article Democrats Limit Future Financing for Washington Voucher Program discusses the pros and cons of voucher programs and charter schools. Voucher programs allow students from low-income families to attend a private school in hopes of receiving a better education than from a public school. With charter schools, a voucher would not be necessary; however, taxpayers would pick up the costs. Charter schools are funded publicly but independently operated.

“The Obama administration is more supportive of charter schools than voucher programs,” wrote Dillon. In 2004, Congress created the Opportunity Scholarships program to assist those seeking their education outside of public schools. “Some 90 percent of the participating students have been African-American, and an additional 9 percent Hispanic, according to the Department of Education Study” noted Dillon. Some teachers and parents are indifferent with choosing charter schools or vouchers; they are more concerned with which will provide the best education and the least amount of trouble to the students. Michelle A. Rhee, the schools chancellor said, “I don’t think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids.”

Jeanne Allen’s Why Doesn't Ty'Sheoma Have a Choice? focuses on the benefits and shortcomings of charter schools for “minorities.” The article concentrates on the lack of school selection choices that some students by focusing on Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the student who sat with Michelle Obama during President Obama’s speech last week. Putting more money into Ty’Sheoma’s current school is not the main issue explains Allen, noting that "financing a broken system, without accountability, does nothing."

According to Allen, providing students like Ty’Sheoma with opportunities to choose the kind of school she attends, including a charter school would be most beneficial. “With choice,” writes Allen, “Ty'Sheoma's family could evaluate a school, review the programs and the data on school performance. Ty'Sheoma could choose to attend a school that worked for her.”

Smith, Massinga, Rambsy

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