Battles rage on over K-12 charter schools in our state and all across the country. These battles are primarily centered around money and politics.... are fueled by misinformation.... and fought in the paid-for media, behind the closed doors of legislature and even between uninformed citizen neighbors.
Sadly, the voices of the actual students, parents and teachers are rarely represented in these debates. Somewhere along the way, I think it's safe to say we've lost focus.
Divide And Conquer
I've been studying the media coverage in Ohio since my daughter enrolled in the state's largest online public charter school, The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) several years ago. What I've seen is an obvious coordinated effort by the anti-choice gang to draw lines and create two warring factions. In tandem with this, they intentionally blur the lines between several distinctly separate but important debates surrounding public education. While some politicians, media bullies and think tanks use their platforms to drive their political agendas, other "respected news sources" use brazen headlines, sins of omission and flat out lies to sell advertising on the back of clickworthy articles... or as I like to phrase it... on the heads of our children. In most cases, the headlines seem to be written well before any sort of semblance of journalism transpires.
In article after article... including a recent piece by the New York Times, you'll read about politicians pushing gratuitous charter school regulatory legislation, accusations of corruption and implied conspiracy theories around government privatization. Buried amidst that onslaught of gloom and doom. you will find more misinformation and lies than fact or substance about actual students, families, teachers and the growing demand for public school choice.
What they won't tell you is that In Ohio alone, there are over 400 different charter schools serving over 120,000 students. These schools come in different formats and specializations and while some come and go, this is not some sort of fringe movement. My daughter's school has been around for 15 years, has a current enrollment of over 17,000 students and has graduated over 18,000 from all across the state since '01.
Those who have financial and political interests in opposing school choice have a clear objective. They wish to defund these schools and use political ploys to over-regulate charters out of existence. The most concerning part is that they use our schools, our kids, and teachers as pawns along the way and go to great efforts to marginalize our voices in the process. Through trash and hatchet-job journalism, they're hiding and blatantly misrepresenting what many alternative schools are actually doing for kids and families in Ohio. And even though tens of thousands of Ohio's families have decided to pursue alternative options, the anti-choice camp continues to push an Us vs.Them narrative in an effort to drive a wedge between all of us... great schools, dedicated educators, families and neighbors who only want the best for these kids. As a parent or anyone who follows a moral compass when it comes to children, it's just sickening.
They Way We've Always Done It
When I was growing up back in the 80's and early 90's, there were only two K-12 school options.... Public or Private. Only those with enough money to afford private schools had a choice in selecting the best option for their children. Beyond that, the quality of a child's education was directly correlated to the neighborhood in which they lived and school district where they could enroll. And hailing from comfy two-parent safe suburban household, I was one of the lucky ones.
The education I was entitled to had less to do with what the State public system provided and more to do with my family's socioeconomic status.
Fast forwarding to today and now with children of our own (both charter and traditional school educated), my wife and I find ourselves having to make important decisions about each of our kids best options at a public education. And like most parents, I think we are naturally driven to just want something better for them than what we had growing up. While part of this is about reflecting and learning from our past, we've learned that it's just as much about NOT allowing our past to define our future. It would be easy to just push each of our children down the same school path that we took when we were kids, but it's not 1989 anymore. Thankfully, today we have options.
No Child Left Behind - 2016 Edition
Many Ohio families face challenges with their local school systems. Sometimes it's the local school itself and sometimes it's entire traditional educational model but there are times when the local school district is not equipped to meet or is slow to adapt to many of the unique needs of our kids. From students dealing with disabilities to those coping with bullying and harassment to kids having to work to support and care for their families and so many other circumstances, the traditional public school model by it's outdated design is effectively working against some of these kids. On the other side of the coin, you have kids who are not dealing with the trying personal issues but simply feel slowed down by the traditional model and may not be reaching their potential. Time and time again, charter schools have been able to pick up where the other schools left off.
IN 2016, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON THAT ANY CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE SOCIAL, FINANCIAL, Physical OR LEARNING STYLE BARRIERS TO A public EDUCATION THAT WORKS BEST FOR THEM.
The public school choice movement is growing all across the country for good reason and although much of the media won't report on it fairly, the numbers jump right off the page. When you take look at the student demographic considerations for my daughter's school, ECOT, it's obvious why this online public charter option is in such high demand.
One Size Fits Small
Our entire world is evolving at a clip that few can keep up with. It's no surprise that our public education system has had a hard time keeping up. In the end, every day we waste forcing a child into a model where they don't fit best adds up to much more than just a day or a dollar wasted. The consequences are devastating for our kids, families and our communities.
It's time to move forward. Being an advocate for public school choice is driven by a desire that ALL kids, regardless of their circumstances, should have a shot at a public education that's designed to work for them... online, offline, traditional, specialized or hybrid.
And It's time to regain focus. When it comes to how our state's children are publicly educated and the impact to our society, we should all be up for healthy, fair and on-topic debates. Parents or not, we all pay into the system as much as we all stand to pay the price for a system that fails these kids.