An end to one bit of whining

31 Oct

Whenever the issue of charter schools comes up, we invariably hear whining from the teacher’s union types who bitterly complain that the charter schools take money away from the traditional schools, and we don’t even know if they do a good job.

They do a good job. And with poorer students.

Publicly funded charter schools first opened here in 2000. Fifteen charter schools – 13 in Buffalo – enroll more than 5,500 elementary and high school students, and many have long waiting lists. While charter school enrollment has grown dramatically, enrollment in traditional Buffalo Public Schools has fallen to 36,050 from 46,000 in 1999-2000. Two of the local charter schools are sponsored by the Buffalo Board of Education. The rest received charters from the state.

Charter schools have fewer contractual restrictions than traditional public schools and greater flexibility in establishing school hours, work rules and assignments. They are publicly funded and are open to all city students through lotteries.

In an effort to close the achievement gap between the charters and the traditional schools, Williams is preparing a reform plan that will revolve around a longer school day and an extended school year – both trademarks of charter schools.

In five years, the Buffalo School system has lost 10,000 pupils, yet Rumore and others tell us that too little funding (i.e., a budget larger than that of the City itself – $600+ million/year) is the problem. As I posted about months ago, the City of Buffalo’s school funding comes out to $19,000 per year, per student.

I think Helfer’s line that education is the civil rights issue for the 21st century is dead-on. It’s also the way for Buffalo to climb out of the muck and mire of the industrial revolution and join the information age.

At $19k per student, I think that if you asked every parent in the Buffalo City Schools if they’d like a voucher for that amount to spend on tuition at any private or public school in Erie County, they’d be thrilled.

Because it’s not about the teachers or their union, it’s not about the teacher’s union’s president, it’s not about the board of education, it’s not about the schools superintendent.

It’s about the kids and their families. If the system isn’t serving them satisfactorily, then they deserve options. These kids only get one chance.

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