Nathan'ette Burdine's

The Nyle Magazine

        Home     News     Politics    The Economy    Health    Education    The Ma'at     


NB's The Nyle Magazine

Monday, October 08, 2012



Published September 8, 2011-Updated October 18, 2011

“The Latent Concern:  Charter Schools Will Become the Norm”

By Nathan’ette Burdine-Follow on Twitter@nbnylemagazine

            The latent concern opponents of charter schools are having is that charter schools will become the norm and public education will cease to exist. Public education has a negative connotation as being inferior to its counter part, private schools.  The general belief is that public school students lack the basic foundations of reading, writing, and math and will therefore not be able to compete academically or economically with private school students.  However, the public school students’ competition extends beyond private schools and the American walls to the global community.  The government is linking its education with its economic situation and viewing the statement, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” as true to why they are not competing on a global stage.  Due to the advancing workforce, there has been a greater push to ensure American students have the basic academic foundation to build upon so they may compete on the global stage.  In order to close the achievement gap, governing officials are looking at other options to ensure public education students have the basic academic foundation that will enable them to also compete with their global counterparts in the job market.  As it stands, charter schools are becoming the solution to under performing schools.

          Major cities like New York and Detroit are replacing under performing public schools with charter schools.  In New York, New York’s Department of Education closed 22 of the city’s failing public schools and replaced them with charter schools.  According to the Daily Beast’s writer John Avlon, 7000 students were accepted for the Fall 2011 year with 50,000 students on the waiting list.  In regards to the waiting list, a solution that is being used is to co-locate the charter schools.  Basically, charter schools will share a building with other charter schools and public schools.  By having the charter and public schools in the same location, officials are hoping that this will speed up the process of moving the students from under performing schools to the charter schools.  Organizations like the NAACP and United Teachers Federation Union, however, view the idea as counterproductive. 

The NAACP and United Teachers Federation Union appealed to the New York State Supreme Court in order to prevent the co-location of the charter schools.  According to the New York Times’ writer Fernanda Santos’ article, “NAACP on Defensive as Suit on Charter Schools Splits Group’s Supporters,” the NAACP and United Teachers Federation Union believes a separate but unequal environment has been created.  Some of the concerns cited are the public school students eating lunch at an earlier time, not having access to class materials, and having to learn in a basement that is substituting as a classroom.  However, these concerns fell on deaf ears.  Some have argued that several of the public elementary and middle schools are half full.  Therefore, the state is spending more money to maintain and keep open these schools that aren’t showing any positive results.  One parent went as far as to imply that the NAACP was acting more like a roadblock than a pathfinder.  Avalon quoted Kathleen Ker Nivan as saying,  “Well, the problem is that this group of people that mommy told you about during Black History month, that did all those great things a long time ago-they want to stop you from doing great things.”  Hence, the NAACP is viewed in the same light as the oppressors they fought against during Jim Crow.  The good news for the parents and students is that the NAACP and the United Teachers Federation Union’s appeal was not successful and progress, as the parents and students see it, can move forward.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan took it further than New York and decided that Detroit’s public schools were in such dire need of help that they needed an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) to have complete control over the decisions made in the Detroit Public School System (DPS).  Governor Snyder appointed Robert Bobb to the position and then replaced him with Rob Roberts.  The governor’s decision to appoint an EFM was understandable considering the fact that DPS was plagued by allegations of officials misusing funds, as well as not having the financial resources to hire qualified administrators, faculty, and staff to increase the quality of education.  According to the Detroit News’ writer Robert Snell’s article, “Gallery Owner Guilty in Detroit Public Schools Corruption Case:  She Faces up to 20 years for District Contract Deal,” Sherry Washington was an allege corrupt official who misused the DPS’ funds.  Sherry Washington owned an art gallery and was a prominent individual within the community.  She was accused of taking more than $3 million dollars from DPS.  Her allege accomplice, Stephen Hill, was a former school executive who allegedly received approximately $150,000 from Sherry Washington.  It was alleged that Hill used the money in order to buy cars and to have a retirement party.  Basically, Mr. Hill and Mrs. Washington decided that the money would be better spent on themselves than the students at the Detroit Public Schools.  Unfortunately, their actions, along with others, have contributed to the poor education the DPS’ students are receiving.

The State of Michigan Education site stated that DPS’ students have an ACT average of 15 compared to Michigan’s ACT average of 19.3 and the National average of 20.  Also, the DPS’ students scored below average on all five subject areas (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies) on Michigan’s merit exam.  The scores suggest that these students will be left out of the advancing job market because they do not have the basic academic foundation.  And without the basic academic foundation to build upon, performing simple task can be quite difficult.  However, not everyone believes charter schools are the solution to the ailing public school system.  A common objection is that charter schools are privatized companies whose interest is the bottom line, money, and will not be able to achieve the necessary results.

According to the NPR article “What Happens When Charter Schools Fail?,” the CEO of the Philadelphia Academy Charter School was charged with stealing $1 million dollars.  There are also accusations that the CEO allegedly charged the school rent and placed the money he received from the rent within his allege $1 million dollar stash.  The money the CEO allegedly stole could have gone towards programs targeted to special education students, the purchase of updated books, or to upgrade the computers.  Instead, the school administrators were forced to acknowledge that the money for the students was not there.  But as the allegations against the prominent art gallery owner associated with the Detroit Public School System has shown, allege misuse of funds is not limited to Charter Schools. 

Recently, the Atlanta Public School System (APS) was hit with allegations of educators receiving higher pay based on their inflation of the students’ test scores.  The cheating scandal has resulted in parents questioning just how much they can trust the educators to teach their children the basics of education when the educators apparently had to inflate grades in order to cover up their inability to teach.  The findings have resulted in teachers resigning, request for the return of funds, and a federal investigation.  It brings up the question of just how qualified are the educators who are educating the students.  And it is cases like those associated with the APS and DPS that tend to get more attention than the one associated with the Philadelphia Charter Schools because the APS and DPS situation reinforces the feeling that it is time to try something different, even if it isn’t perfect.

The bright spot for charter schools is that the public has been loosing faith in the public education system.  Although it is true that cases such as those that occurred in Philadelphia concerning the misappropriation of funds at charter schools do occur, they are brushed aside because of similar cases like the ones associated with the DPS and APS.  It is a situation in which a public school’s negative is magnified 21 times over compared to its counter part, charter schools.  There is the feeling that it is time to try something new because the old method has not been working.  And with the advancing job market and growing global competition, “out with the old and in with the new” may be the better way for the country to go with education.







About    Comment Policy    Contact    Past Stories


Copyright © 2012 by Nathan'ette Burdine.  All Rights Reserved