Charter Pulse

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KENTUCKY: Passing charter school law will widen opportunities

school-choiceEvery parent has dreams for their children. Dreams that they will grow up healthy and happy, do well in school, go to college, and be successful beyond their wildest imaginings. Maybe he will start his own company; maybe she will be an engineer. When you hold your child for the first time, you know you will do anything you can to give her every opportunity in the world.

For too many Kentucky families, dreams don’t come true and the doors to opportunity remain closed. We all know a good education is critical, but we’ve let too many Kentucky schools fail parents and their children for far too long. According to The Nation’s Report Card, only one in three Kentucky fourth- and eighth-graders read at or above grade level. In Jefferson County, it’s even worse. The district is home to 18 of the state’s 41 schools identified as “failing” under federal standards. And a staggering one out of every four Louisville teens drops out of high school.

All children deserve the opportunity to go to a school that will challenge and prepare them for the future. And we have a chance right now to make that happen in Kentucky. Policymakers, the business community and faith leaders have come together to give children who aren’t reaching their full potential other school options.

Forty-two states and Washington, D.C., allow for high-quality public charter schools that are proving every child can succeed. Charter schools are independent public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for improved student achievement. Charter schools are public schools. They do not have special entrance requirements and they do not charge tuition.

Kentucky neighbors Indiana and Tennessee both allow public charter schools, and the students who attend them are doing better in school than their traditional public school peers. According to research done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University (CREDO), low-income students who attend public charter schools in Indiana do significantly better in math compared to their low-income peers in traditional public schools. And in Tennessee, students who attend public charter schools learn the equivalent of 86 additional days of instruction in reading and 72 more days in math, compared to their traditional school peers.

CREDO also found that nationwide, public charter schools do a better job teaching minority children, low-income children and children who don’t speak English as their first language than traditional public schools. Six out of 10 schoolchildren in Kentucky fall into one of those categories, but far too many of their parents have no choice but to send them to schools that have been failing generation after generation.

We could give you pages and pages of numbers, studies, and statistics that show public charter schools will be good for Kentucky children. But numbers, facts and figures aren’t the only reasons to support charter schools.

Any parent can tell you no two children are alike. They don’t learn the same way, they excel in different subjects, and they need help at different times. Parents deserve the right to make choices about the best learning environment for their children. But they can’t make those choices if they don’t have any.

A Courier-Journal poll in February found 65 percent of respondents supported public charter schools, and an April survey by Harper Polling found 72 percent of Kentuckians would support a law to allow schools that perform poorly year after year to reorganize as public charter schools. A recent survey of several hundred black families in Kentucky showed more than half would send their children to a different public school than the one to which they are currently assigned if they were given a choice.

High-quality public charter schools let parents be more involved in their child’s education, give teachers the freedom to innovate and try new ideas to improve student learning, and give students the structure they need to learn. These schools prove what’s possible. It’s time for Kentucky lawmakers to open the door to these possibilities for its children by passing a charter school law in the next legislative session.

Source: Courier-Journal – by Nina Rees (President, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools) and Joe Williams (President, Democrats for Education Reform)

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This entry was posted on August 22, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Kentucky.

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