Selected readings on US charter schools
Columbia, SC — Thanks to parent advocates’ hard work, S.C. students begin this school year with more choices than ever before. As a parent, a former teacher and the leader of a state and national parent organization, I have rallied alongside other parents all the way from the State House in Columbia to the Capitol in Washington in support of expanded options and fair funding. I feel immense pride at the results of South Carolinians’ hard work.
But I continue to advocate for a permanent funding mechanism that can sustain these options for the long term. Without fixed funding, parents of brick-and-mortar charter and virtual charter school students will be left to wonder from year to year if their child’s school will continue to operate.
We believe that all public school students deserve equitable funding and that our taxpayer dollars should follow our students to their public school of choice, whether that’s a local traditional school, a brick-and-mortar charter or a public virtual charter school. According to the January report from the S.C. Public Charter School District, brick-and-mortar charters receive more than $1,000 more per pupil than their peers in virtual charter schools. And that is still almost $2,000 less than traditional brick-and-mortar school students. These numbers simply don’t add up fairly for all students.
Because of demand, we’ve made particular strides in virtual charter schools this year; the new Cyber Academy of South Carolina is poised for an Aug. 21 class start date, joining six existing virtual public charter schools in our state. While I understand that most students succeed in a traditional public school, I applaud state policymakers for accommodating children with diverse needs.
I say that with no disrespect to our state’s traditional public school system. As a former public school English teacher, I have high regard for the committed professionals who dedicate their days to our state’s future leaders. But I also have considerable insight into the vast range of students who enter public school classrooms and the expanse of variables that influence their learning.
The options available today exist largely thanks to our parents, many of whom joined me at an April rally in Columbia with the support of a number of leaders in the State House. We acknowledged these leaders with the Golden Apple award, a symbol of gratitude for their work on behalf of South Carolina public education. We also recognized Gov. Nikki Haley for her support of school options for all students.
I also had the opportunity to lead parents from South Carolina and all across the country as we shared our stories with elected officials and staff at the U.S. Capitol in July. There we were warmly received by Sen. Tim Scott, a steadfast advocate for education choice. While many new members of Congress must make early decisions on what issues they are going to make priorities, Sen. Scott demonstrated that he is making S.C. students a top priority. We hope his leadership on this issue will help students across the country who will benefit from more school choice.
I am first and foremost a South Carolinian, but serving as the national board president for PublicSchoolOptions.org gives me empathy for students throughout our country. I think specifically of a recent National Alliance for Public Charter Schools study, which reported that nearly one million students nationwide are on a waiting list to attend a public charter school. While these children wait, their education suffers.
As the first day of school approaches, my hope is focused on S.C. students, both those who explore a new public school option and those who return to the option they’ve found and enjoy. Each reminds me of the importance of choice and the power of parent voices. I wish them all good luck in the new school year.
Source: The State – by Beth Purcell (S.C. chair and national board president of PublicSchoolOptions.org, which supports public school options)