1) There isn’t a need for charters in our state.
In some states, the overreaching power of teachers’ unions causes a very real roadblock to student learning. The most common of these roadblocks is the inability to terminate poor-performing teachers because of tenure laws that have been put in place due to an extremely powerful teachers union in that state.
Mississippi, while teachers unions do exist, does not fall under this category — not even close. We don’t have tenure laws that keep bad teachers in the classroom. If a bad teacher remains in a classroom in Mississippi for too long, it is a reflection of poor leadership at the various levels of school administration from the Principal’s office to the Superintendent’s office to the Board of Trustees — all of whom work for you, the taxpayer.
2) Charters are not proven to be any better than traditional public schools.
In a recent study from Stanford University that included 2,403 charter schools across 16 states and focused on mathematics, 37% of charter schools scored lower than their traditional public school counterparts. 46% scored the same as their traditional counterparts and only 17% scored “significantly better”. The full study can be found at http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf
3) Contrary to what you’ve heard, charters do not bring “competition” into the world of education.
Charter schools have their own governing boards at the local and state level and do not fall under the purview of the local and state school boards. Therefore, they make their own rules — rules that usually differ significantly from the state laws that govern their traditional counterparts.
For example, traditional public schools are required to educate “everybody” and are judged by the results of the state tests that “everybody” takes. Charter schools, on the other hand, reserve a legal right to pick and choose who they educate. With self-preservation and justification to the public in mind, who do we think the charters will recruit?
For you sports fans, this would be the equivalent of a hypothetical NFL draft in which certain teams would be able to choose whoever they want from the pool of prospects while other teams would be required to draft everybody, regardless of athletic ability. Come game day, who’s gonna win?
Football, as Coach Boone said in the profoundly wonderful film Remember the Titans, is “not a democracy”. Nor should it be.
Public education, however, is a democracy. As it should be.
4) Aside from the facts that charters are undemocratic and unproven, we simply can’t afford them.
Charters are funded from the same pool of funds that local school districts draw from. The last time I checked, the average Mississippi school district wasn’t just “rolling in the dough”.
Many charter schools, in addition to local tax dollars, rely extremely heavily on private investment (heavily, as in, an almost dollar-for-dollar match). Would student performance increase in our existing public schools if they enjoyed the same level of private investment as some charters do?
5) Lack of ownership — not lack of school choice — is what is holding many Mississippi communities back.
When whole communities truly get involved with the vision and operation of their local public schools, miracles start happening. More kids start smiling. Test scores improve. Teachers are happier. Parents are happier.
This is not fiction or hopeless idealism. I’ve been watching it unfold in Meridian for several years now and it’s happening in communities all over America.
6) We’ve been down this road before.
The government usage of tax dollars to separate our kids — which is a legitimate, indisputable definition of charter schools — was found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954.
To legalize charter schools in Mississippi would be to circumvent not only our Constitution but our moral values.
We must not stand for this.