Pro-Charter is Not Anti-Public

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By Andrew Pillow

If you live in are large city like New York or Chicago you have options about what type of transportation you use. Many find it easier to use the subway and don’t like the hassle of parking so they take the train every day. People who live further out or prefer solitude in their morning commute often find that they prefer to drive. Both of these options have their own pros and cons that vary based on the person and their situation. But driving isn’t considered “Anti-Train” and people who take the train aren’t “Anti-Car”.

We would probably consider it pretty silly if the people who preferred public transportation decided to team up to try and stop people from driving… but we don’t think it’s silly when the people who prefer public schools team up to try and stop people from going to charters.

And make no mistake: It is the exact same thing.

At no point in the charter school debate has someone argued that every child should attend a charter school as that would undermine the central tenant of charter schools which is “choice”. The only people attempting to force all children to attend their schools are the public schools districts. What makes this fact even more distressing is the fact that some public-school advocates do that while maintaining that they are in fact the victims in this situation even while they challenge rather or not charter schools should even exist.  

Ironically, many public school advocates are anti-charter, based on the false narrative that charters are anti-public.

Here are the two scenarios that would make charter schools anti-public:

  1. If students were mandated to go to a charter school instead of their traditional public school
  2. If charter schools actively decreased the ability of public schools to educate the students they have.

Since neither of the above are true one must admit that charter schools are not anti-public.

Traditional public-school advocates will take issue with number 2 in the above list. They say that because money is distributed via head count, students leaving the public-school arena and taking their money elsewhere decreases their capacity to serve the students who are left behind. The problem with this idea is that students already take their money elsewhere. Inner city public schools were hemorrhaging students to suburbs via public-to-public transitions ling before the advent of charters and in most places that makes up a much larger percentage of the loss of public school students.

Additionally, charter schools manage to educate students with the head count money they receive from the government just fine. If charter schools can balance their funding enough to educate students while still meeting the bottom line then public schools should be able to as well. Especially considering the fact that they typically receive more money than charter schools due to property taxes.

In keeping with the above metaphor, the purpose of transportation is to get people from point a to point b. So too is the case with education. They may not be physical destinations in education… but destinations none the less. It's cool if you want to use public transportation to get to your final destination but if students and families decide they want to drive… let them drive.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.