by Joe Shahen
At the end of June, the Times Union in Albany took a look at the state of the city’s middle schools, specifically the persistently failing Hackett Middle School, and highlighting the work of KIPP Tech Valley Charter School. A couple weeks later, a letter popped up saying charter schools want to put public schools “out of business” and that charters aren’t really about education.
I responded to that, and last week a response to my letter was published. The July 28 letter by David Stone responded to my classification of charter schools as public schools as “specious,” and asked how it is that charter schools are public schools.
To find the answer to Mr. Stone’s question, look no further than state law.
In the very first section of the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998, the purpose of charter schools is stated to, “Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.”
Just because they are not run exactly like district schools, that does not mean charter schools are not public schools. They are publicly funded and open to all students and families who want to apply.
Mr. Stone said charter schools don’t answer to the public. Actually, charter schools answer to the public more than any other public schools in the state. If a charter school does not perform or live up to its charter, it closes. A charter wouldn’t get to be marked as failing for a decade straight like Hackett Middle School; it simply wouldn’t be open anymore.
To bring everything back to the issue at hand, which is the state of Albany schools, how many more kids need to fail in the low-performing district middle schools before everybody agrees more quality options are needed, regardless of what type of public schools they are?