Selected readings on US charter schools
Charter schools are public schools in every sense of the word. They do not charge tuition and are publicly funded by local, state and federal tax dollars based on enrollment. All public schools receive an allotment from the state, county and city for each student who attends. In North Carolina, charter schools don’t receive the portion of the education lottery funds which go toward construction, or money for capital expenses such as facility and grounds. As a result, the student allotment and funds raised by the schools must cover mortgage or rent, repairs, upgrades, utilities and landscaping, not to mention teacher and administrative salaries and benefits and all other operational expenses.
Charter Schools are accountable to the public for their tax payer dollars in the same way as traditional public schools, with one additional process. They have a performance contract with the state, which holds them accountable for fiscal health as well as high academic standards. Their charter is renewed every five to ten years through a charter renewal process. They are also held accountable for N.C. testing standards, assessments and the requirements of federal No Child Left Behind law.
Critics claim that charter schools don’t benefit all of our children – only a limited few who have the resources and opportunity to participate. They also state that the lack of transportation and lunch programs can be a barrier to families of low wealth. Although charters receive no funding for transportation or lunch programs we are required to ensure that they are not a barrier for anyone to attend the school. Evergreen has a robust car pool program that more than 1/3 of our families participate in and if a child needs a ride to school they get one. We are also on the city bus line. Evergreen has a plan in place to serve lunch for those who need it and a food pantry where families in need can get food. Forty percent of our families are low-income. No child ever goes hungry.
We are keenly aware that students of color are underrepresented at our school, and we are taking concrete action to change this. While it is true that not all families can come out to Evergreen for a school tour or an Information Session, we have an outreach program where we advertise in publications with diverse readership, School Services Coordinator Robin Elliott attends Head Start meetings where she explains our program and we plaster information flyers all over local community centers. One of our strategic goals is to develop programming for underserved students. This year we have opened up our summer camp to the greater community and are offering scholarships.
Once a student gets into Evergreen, parents sign a Parent Partnership Agreement that says they will make every effort to volunteer two hours per month per parent. We have volunteer opportunities that can be fulfilled at home, during the school day, before, or after school. We work around our families’ schedules so they can be involved, if at all possible. Parent participation is not a requirement but an expectation. It is an expectation because we know that students do better when their families our involved in their education, and we will bend over backwards to make it happen.
It was stated in the article that divisiveness comes along with the public versus charter school debate. Charter school staff and families don’t see it as “them against us.” We see it as “we are in this together.” North Carolina is 45th in the country in per pupil expenditure and teacher pay and funding keeps decreasing. That affects all charter and other public schools.
Evergreen graduates move on to Buncombe County and Asheville City high schools and we strive to send them as well-educated, compassionate, service-oriented students. Evergreen has educated more than 1,000 students its inception 15 years ago. Our focus on Environmental Education and Expeditionary Learning has resulted in high academic achievement and local, state and national recognition. We are proud to be a part of the quality public school options in Buncombe County.
Source: Ashville Citizen Times – by Dan Leron