Your View: Charter Schools Damage Public Schools

AnswersMost teachers I know are aware of the school funding issues you make. But we are down to bare bones in our school district. Every week we are asked to do more on our own with no compensation except the peace of mind that we did what was right for our students. I assure you that my poor school district is not receiving $14,000 per student or anything close to that number.

The state continues to struggle financially and yet continues to grant charters. We need to fortify what we have, not allow more and more entities to take a slice of the budget. We are funding millionaires on tax dollars. Charters and cyber schools are a significant drain on the state budget under the façade of “choice”. This is simply part of a long range plan to privatize education (and in some cases to segregate children into the haves and have-nots). Those who think otherwise have a keen sense of business but not an understanding of the education of children. Charter schools, in their inception, were intended to deal with children with profound educational issues. Children who could not learn in a traditional setting, mostly due to behavior challenges. But what has happened is that charter schools cater to the “easy to educate” student and send back to the public school district all the students they can’t handle. When they send that child back, they keep the money for the rest of the year too. We educate all students but have been depleted from the funds to do so by charter and cyber schools. At the same time, our percentage of special needs students increase.

Most Sincerely,
Rosemarie Zaydak

Dear Rosemarie,

I read your letter and feel that I should share some facts as an educator who has spent a great deal of time on both sides. I taught 12 years in a traditional setting and this is my fourth year at a cyber charter. I truly hope this doesn’t come off as rude or confrontational, but the differences between your observations and our school’s reality are vast.

First, our school never turns a student away. In fact, a great deal of our students come to us when their home district will no longer work with them or refuses to meet their needs. I know this is not always the case and not meant as a generalization, just a reality we deal with daily. Also, more than 20 percent of our student population is labeled as special needs. This is well above the state average. Our school goes above and beyond to help these students and had gained a very good reputation within that community because of these efforts. Moreover, the number of our students who are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged is significantly higher than the state average.

I can tell you first hand that the majority of our students are nowhere near the range of ‘easy to educate’. Most of us here are former brick and mortar teachers and we understand the struggles you described. We work harder than we ever have for less pay. While your district may not receive the state average per student, our school gets around 30 percent less than yours for each of those students. On top of that, we have to deal with the threat of further cuts and stricter standards. All of us are intimate with the concepts of sacrifice and making due. As you said, though, we do it because our kids deserve it.

Which brings me to your assertion about charters being a choice ‘façade’. None of us here have a hidden agenda. None of us have plans to privatize anything. We’re here to help students who couldn’t fit in the traditional model. For some of them, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity. Students with profound medical needs, severe psychological disorders, and victims of violence. These kids deserve an education as well. Instead, their ‘choice’ is opposed at every turn and they are told they are worth 30% less than other students simply because of situations beyond their control. I know this not only as an educator, but also as the father of one of them.

I truly hope you can take a look at the situation objectively and understand that we’re all on the same team. We all want to help every child out. Cybers and other charter schools offer our state an expanded possibility to do that and make us better as a society for doing so.

Steve Calabro
Public Cyber Charter School Educator

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