Letter to the editor: Charters are public schools too

Posted 10/4/17

The upcoming Douglas County School Board election is about two very different approaches to education. One group of candidates embraces the same tired old system, dominated by the teacher's union and …

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Letter to the editor: Charters are public schools too

Posted

The upcoming Douglas County School Board election is about two very different approaches to education. One group of candidates embraces the same tired old system, dominated by the teacher's union and its rigid compensation and promotion rules, that has failed so many of our students for decades. But the Elevate Douglas County candidates - Randy Mills, Ryan Abresch, Debora Scheffel, and Grant Nelson - believe parents should be allowed to continue choosing the best schools for their kids. About 20 percent of DougCo students now attend our 18 charter schools, which are public schools too and serve the intellectual curiosity and talents of students.  

The Elevate candidates will cater to the strengths and talents of each student as an individual, not the groupthink learning that often leaves kids bored and unengaged. Our DougCo test scores are going up in most areas. Some on the other side are terrified of the very idea of competition between charter schools and "traditional" schools. They accuse charters of cherry-picking the best students, stealing per-pupil money from "public schools," and using for-profit companies to destroy neighborhood schools. But none of this is true. Charter students are chosen by lottery, and because so many want to attend it can take a while to get in. Colorado law forbids a school district to grant a charter to a for-profit entity so there is no such thing as a for-profit charter.  And how can charter schools "steal" public school money when each charter is itself a public school?  

Rather than trying to squash parents' power to choose the best school for their kids, the anti-charter, pro-union side would do better to find out everything they can about the rich learning experiences charters are offering that are attracting so many students. And maybe they'd learn something themselves.

Denise Denny

Parker

Comments

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Tom Jeanette

I would feel better about Charter Schools if they required teachers to be certified, as other public schools do.

Saturday, October 7
ThomasH

Charter schools are public schools under Colorado state law. While they may be eligible for small grants in support of their capital expenses, they operate on per-pupil revenues in Colorado. About 20% of the 68000 DCSD students attend charter schools. Douglas County charter schools, and, since this past July, ALL Colorado charter schools, share in the proceeds of local mill levy override (MLO) revenue streams. The problem is that Douglas County has not passed a school bond or school MLO since 2006. Absent local funding, Douglas County neighborhood schools and charter schools are engaged in a "zero-sum" battle for per-pupil revenue dollars. The result is that BOTH DCSD neighborhood schools and DCSD charter schools are in financial distress. Teachers and principals can take jobs just north of County Line Road and make on average $15-18000 more in annual salary and enjoy a working environment that is neither politically-fraught nor burdened with absurd amounts of teacher turnover. Also, charter schools in DCSD are not only public schools, they are critical infrastructure. However, they do not have established funding mechanisms for their capital expenses in the "out" years. This presents the voters of Douglas County with a "balloon payment" liability. The current need to pay capital or mortgage expenses from per-pupil revenue dollars means that financial support of student education that actually reaches the classroom is reduced. This is an enormous problem when you realize the Cherry Creek School District already spends, or an annual per-pupil basis, TWICE what DCSD spends on student instruction. The majority of charter schools in Douglas County perform well but they have been tarred by the entry of thinly-disguised sectarian organizations (e.g. Leman and Ascent) into the charter approval process. DCSD needs its current charters but unbridled proliferation of new charter schools is just a cynical ploy to starve DCSD neighborhood schools with their higher fixed costs and needier populations, of per-pupil revenue dollars to induce a financial calamity in Douglas County. In the aftermath of a financial calamity that the extremist reformers want to induce, a privatization agenda will be offered as the "only solution". Don't be fooled. The reformers, who call themselves the Elevate Slate these days, want to use charter schools as a wedge issue in the northern suburbs of Douglas County because they cannot win this election with rural anti-tax voters alone.

Wednesday, October 11