Op-Ed

If public schools aren’t performing, why not give charter schools a chance?

Let’s once and for all put an end to the myths and misinformation being perpetuated by many, including recent editorials.

First and foremost is the myth that public charter schools in Kentucky are “for profit”. The relevant statute governing public charter schools KRS160.1592(14) clearly states that no tuition or fees can be charged except to the same extent as other public schools. With no tuition or fees, it’s hard to see how a public charter school can make a profit. Critics will argue that the authorizer of a public charter school can secretly enter into contracts for services with relatives or associates and thereby indirectly profit. But again, the relevant statute KRS160.1592(3) states that public charter schools must comply with purchasing requirements as defined in KRS156.074 and 156.840, or that any purchases over a specified amount be approved by the board of directors. These are the same laws and processes that the local school districts operate under with the school board acting as the board of directors.

Second, the myth that public charter schools will cherry pick exceptional students only. Again, the statute clearly defines the enrollment process. No admissions testing can be implemented and enrollment shall be open “so that students are accepted in a public charter school without regard to ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, income level, disabling condition, proficiency in the English language, or academic or athletic ability.” If enrollment exceeds the school capacity, an admissions lottery is conducted. That same lottery process is used for the magnet schools in Fayette County School District.

Third, the myth that without requiring teachers to be certified, unqualified teachers will be hired. Private and parochial school teachers are also not required to be certified and many of them outperform certified teachers. Certification is no guarantee of competence. An ineffective charter school teacher can be removed without the burdensome process of multiple hearings and appeals.

I’ve yet to hear any critics of charter schools explain how Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington is different from a public charter school. As a male only school with an alternative curriculum, a strict dress code, non-Title 1, and funded by tax dollars how does CGW differ from a public charter school? The words “charter school” evokes a visceral reaction in many people who mistakenly assume it means a religious school funded by tax dollars.

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Ronald J. Vissing

Finally, why not give parents a choice? In Fayette County we have a 1-star (out of 5 possible) elementary school that is ranked among the lowest 5% in state. That school has an enrollment of 94% economically disadvantaged students. Those parents residing in that area who care about their children’s education don’t have the economic means to move to a better school or enroll their children in private schools. They are forced to send their kids to a sub-par, underperforming public school.

We keep asking for more parental involvement, let’s give them some choices.

Ronald J Vissing is a Lexington business owner and political activist.

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