And now we step into a debate about charter schools and public schools:
Pulling public funds together to run public systems, such as public schools, is what communities do. By taking out the “per pupil” funds for the children going elsewhere, the community suffers.
The public school IS the community’s for better or worse. Therefore, the community MUST take pains to make it the best it can be in order to provide for community success. I think working to improve the public school is what some in Cynthia’s community are trying to do. However, it appears that the wants of this faction of the community are falling on deaf ears. This is where the community must take the fight to the next level.
Here we are getting into very subjective territory of “wants.” If the school is not in violation of its “requirements,” then it appears that Cynthia and friends want something that the state does not require. The high turnover rate of teachers concerns me a great deal—and I think the community members have a real case to bring to a higher level of the education system with evidence of the school’s trouble with staffing.
However, there has been no real discussion of just what was wanted beyond a vague list. I am interested in knowing what courses are wanted at this school that the school does not already provide? Where is the evidence that sports have a higher priority over academics? So far, all that’s been offered is philosophical conjecture based on a list of perceptions.
This is not to say that the members of the community that have been trying to improve the school have not outlined their wants in detail to the local school board. I feel that the details of their requests and the evidence to support such are germane to the discussion we are having here. So far, very little concrete information has been offered here with the exception of “sports are king and courses are lacking.”
Cynthia claims that her public school is serving her needs but not her wants, and she wants something better. The endeavor of seeking something better is commendable and I encourage her to pursue it, but it’s important to examine the purposes and support systems that exist for citizens in society. In order to do this, I will take this argument one step further in terms of “citizen wants.”
The cost of living in my community and state is through the roof, but there are advantages to living here. I take the fact that I’ll never be able to afford my own free-standing home and will be living in a tiny condo for quite some time as the price for living here and enjoying some of the other advantages of this community. Believe me, I want to live in a McMansion like so many people do here, yet I want to pay next to nothing in taxes like so many people WANT here, as well. However, I cannot get what I want because of the cost of real estate where I live.
Now, if my community is not serving my needs and wants, I need to go to a community where my funds will serve my needs and wants…OR…I need to contribute to this community to make it better. I have chosen the latter. I have no children as of yet, but I have chosen to stay here and invest in my community and its infrastructure. And yes, this means, I have chosen to invest in the public schools because public schools are part of the commons that both support and are supported by all citizens.
I have attempted to establish that the community is supported by the citizens and its systems support the citizens in return. Now let’s move to the concept of “per pupil” funding.
“Per pupil” funding (in the charter school argument) is often treated like a tax break for parents to educate their children.
This is wrong.
Public education serves the community, therefore “per pupil” funds belong to the community, not the individual parents.
If you do not believe that the “per pupil” funding belongs to the community, let me play devil’s advocate for a moment:
Since I have no children, should my tax money go wherever I want it to go to meet MY needs? No. Why not? Why should MY tax money go to pay for Cynthia’s children to be educated? I didn’t ask her to have all those kids, and I certainly did not ask to have to pay for them to go to school. However, I do pay into their education because their education supports the community.
“Per pupil” funding belongs to all of us, not just to the people who have kids. If you are giving parents a choice of what to do with the “per pupil” funding, shouldn’t I have a say as a taxpayer, too? WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME, the childless taxpayer who is paying so that YOUR children could go to school?
See? The “me” argument is not conducive to a strong society. I am glad that I contribute to my society—an educated society benefits everyone in the community. If you don’t think so, I hope you lock your doors at night because the people who grow up on the street because they had no access to strong public education will do whatever it takes to get by, even if that means stealing from you.
I support the infrastructure in my community which means I pay for the children in my community to get educated because I am a citizen in my community and public education serves my community. Therefore, it serves me, kids or no kids.
If your subjective needs are not reflected in your community, I would say, move elsewhere and put your public funds to good use in that community. But if you stay in your current community, do not take your public funds out of the system that supports your community. We cannot always have what we want in life—there is no perfect system that caters to individual wants.
By running to a charter with “per pupil” funds in hand, these community members abandon the children left behind in the public schools. Abandoning the public school is abandoning the community children whose parents do not have the wherewithal to send their children elsewhere.
In Cynthia’s case, she feels that the public schools are “adequate” but apparently not good enough for her children. If her children are worthy of so much more, why doesn’t she continue the fight to get more for all of the community’s children since they are all in this together?
The original idea behind charter schools was to complement and improve the public schools they serve by offering alternative learning situations within the public construct—experiments or “think tanks” of a sort—to help serve the public better.
Today’s charter schools rob the public schools of the students whose parents care while leaving behind the students who desperately need someone to advocate for them. If you think the community is NOT responsible for all children, think again.
This isn’t about “what’s in it for me”—it’s about “what’s in it for the community as a whole.” The “me” attitude is what’s inherently damaging to the public and what drives much of the rhetoric in the charter school debate. You’ll find this “me” attitude permeating many other public issues. I believe that this is the philosophical crux of our political problems as a country.
Charter schools are being misused as institutions that compete AGAINST the public schools—why else would Cynthia be considering one? The public in each state needs to be very wary of charter school laws and how the charters are funded, run, and implemented.
Each state has its own version of the charter schools law, but here is an example of how charter schools in one state divide the community.
I found a blip about Wisconsin public charter schools on the web (see below) that states that these schools are open to the public…BUT they have waiting lists due to space limitations.
Why? If Wisconsin’s charters are open the public, why are there space limitations? How can you call public charter schools “public” when they limit space and then enrollment is limited as a result?
Is that serving “the public?” Not at all. This limitation is unacceptable and will seek to divide a community into those with the luck of getting in to a charter and those without the luck that have to stay behind in what’s left of the community’s public school. Granted this is just an example of charter schools in one state, but it gives you food for thought.
If magnet schools are part and parcel of the public school system, they are operating with public funds and they are overseen by the public entities in charge of them.
Charters do not have the same regulations as the public schools yet they are siphoning “per pupil” funding that belongs to the public away FROM the public under the guise of a “public” institution with limitations in serving the public. This is dangerous to the public, no matter how you slice it.