Gov. Robert Bentley and the GOP leadership in the Alabama Legislature are pushing hard for the creation of charter schools in the public school system. They claim charter schools will give more power to local school officials and that their creation will bring about more accountability from school districts. I haven’t read the proposed legislation that must be passed in order for the concept to go forward. But I do have a general understanding of the concept of charter schools. I have great difficulty comprehending how creating charter schools in Alabama can really improve the overall quality of public education in our state. In fact, it may have the potential to do great harm to a system that badly needs to be supported.
When you consider how we have neglected the public schools in Alabama over the years – and how the entire state has suffered as a result – it doesn’t really make sense to consider the charter school approach as the solution to the major problems we currently face in education. First of all, we have never adequately funded public education in Alabama. Neither have we established priorities for the spending of the funds that were appropriated by the Legislature. Some say we have never demanded real accountability from those responsible for running the various segments of the overall system of public education. That may be true. In any event, I really can’t see charter schools as any real answer on the accountability issue. Perhaps the concept of charter schools reminds me too much of something called “Freedom of Choice,” which was proposed at that time to be good for public education, and was pushed by some politicians several years back, for me to support it.
A prime example of how neglect of the public schools badly hurts a community can be found right here in the Capital City. If the citizens in Montgomery County, over the years, had demanded better and stronger public schools, rather than building a private school system that has pulled both students and funding from the public schools, we would be in much better shape today, economically and socially, in Montgomery.
I may be in the minority, but I believe adequate funding and strong leadership by those in positions of authority – combined with total support by private citizens – can bring about the changes needed in our current system. We already have dedicated teachers who can get the job done. It’s our responsibility to support them and the children they are responsible to teach. Hopefully, that will happen soon. I just don’t see charter schools as the answer.
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