Of course, these new kids on the block don't have to go through the metal detectors every other student has to go through in my building, they have their own entrance. I'm not bitching about this, no children should have to go through metal detectors, young or old. What I am going to bitch about is the glaring difference between how their school looks and operates versus my own.
I went perusing through their hallways last week and was shocked to see how much their school reminded me of being in an affluent suburban high school. Their halls were decorated with posters, signs, school colors, school mottos, motivational quotes, surprisingly good student work, art, etc.
This was to be expected. In order for a student to be admitted into a charter school, parents must submit their child's name into a lottery. And therein lies the problem: kids whose parents take initiative to submit their names into a lottery for a "better school" will almost always be better off than kids with no parental involvement, support, or encouragement. If you'd like research to support this claim, refer to exhibit A - the last two years of my life.
For anyone who has visited or seen my school, it looks like a jail. Whatever is posted on the walls looks half-assed, at best. We don't have anyone designated to "pretty-o-fy" our hallways. Most of our bulletin boards are barren. We have a sad-looking poster that reads "Our attendance last week was: [fill in a number under 60% here]. Can we make it to 80%?"
Side note: No, we can't make it to 80%. We're a transfer school for kids with attendance issues. How can you not know this, poster maker?!We're a "21st century" school, but we don't have a computer lab. We have school colors, but they're not visible unless you visit the school's website. Parents rarely visit our school. In fact, we are the ones who have to visit our kids' homes to figure out why our students haven't been coming to school for weeks on end.
The differences between public schools and public charter schools are becoming glaringly ridiculous. And sadly, our country's education system continues to compare these two institutions as if it's a competition to see what model works best for the kids. That would be like comparing the Chicago Bulls to the U.S.A. Olympic basketball team. I'm saying this as a Bulls fan.
The new charter school movement is based on ideas within the private sector. Free market principles. Their motto is that parents should have a choice on where to send their children to school. Bad schools should close down and move on for better ones. This idea has no mercy for the majority of children in lower-income households whose parents aren't actively involved in their lives. The "neighborhood school" suddenly doesn't matter to an involved parent anymore: who cares if it has problems when you can send your child to a better school an hour away? Some children in NYC commute 90 minutes each way to arrive at the school they won the lottery for.
Charter schools have what public school principals have wet dreams about: the ability to "counsel out" students they don't want or don't "fit" the culture. These students get sent back to a regular public school, probably the school where they live closest to. Public schools can't do that, they have to work with what they get. My school is packed with students who used to be in charter schools.
Charters can also accept funding from other sources. They can fiddle around with their budgets to pay teachers better, and thus, attract some of the hardest working teachers who grow weary of the politics that exist within public school systems.
If public schools ultimately become the place where students who aren't "intelligent enough" or don't have enough parental involvement go, then our country's intellectual capital is... well, fucked really. Public education was created based on the notion that all children deserve a good education. We're modifying this to all children with involved parents deserve a good education.
Attention poor people: quit your jobs so that you may wait in long lines to submit your child's name into a lottery in which you may or may not win. Stop being lazy, dammit.