Charter schools make a commitment to their community, building hope. When they keep these commitments by creating safe, engaging school environments, they build trust.
Despite having some flexibility, public charter schools must follow the same laws as public district schools in these three critical trust-building areas:
1. Serving students with disabilities;
2. Student accountability; and,
3. Health and safety standards.
Serving Students With Disabilities: Charter schools must serve all students who enroll. Whether this student requires a one-on-one assistant, full-day specialized instruction, or private transportation services, a charter school must find a way to serve each child in their school. In some charter schools, over 20% of their student population has been identified as exceptional. In fact, at Bridges Academy in Wilkes County, almost 50% of their student population has a learning disability. Unlike a district school, charter schools cannot consolidate children with the same diagnosis and transport them to one school in the county. Charter schools serve all levels of exceptional children while serving them at their school of choice.
Student Accountability: Charter schools administer the same End of Grade Tests and are ranked on the State’s NC Report Card. However, when opponents compare the performance data of charter schools to district schools, they forget that charter schools do not have district lines, sometimes serving students from up to ten different counties. School districts can open academically rigorous schools by running weighted lotteries that consider race, economics, and academic success, and they can redraw district lines to balance a school’s economic diversity.
The Difference: The most glaring difference between charter schools and district schools is this: If a charter school does not perform, it can be closed. In fact, according to the NC Office of Charter Schools, 60 charter schools have closed through having their charter revoked or by being forced to relinquish their charter based on performance. There is no higher accountability measure than that.
Health and Safety Standards: As a father of two children who attend a charter school, nothing is more important than their well-being. Not only does the administration ensure that facility is a clean, safe environment for learning, regularly, the students and staff talk about how they care for each other and the larger community. Projects are based on these conversations, and the conversations that we have around the dinner table demonstrate that my children don’t just understand character as an essay assignment, it’s who they are and how they live. I like the people they are becoming.
They Are Correct: Charter opponents are correct when they state that charter schools have a higher percentage of low-performing schools. This is a fact that is unacceptable. However, facts can change. The real question that goes unasked is, “Why are parents still choosing low-performing charters over their district school?”
By ignoring the benefits of school choice, you are opposing these parents who are exercising their right to decide which school choice is the best fit for their child’s future.
Dr. Thomas Miller is a former exceptional children’s teacher, charter school principal and state consultant. Today he is a charter school dad, board member and owner of Leaders Building Leaders, a company that works to be the most trusted, innovative and transformational school leadership community in the world.
Get daily inspirational messages and updates on our events and programs.