Charter Schools: The Educational Equivalent of the Snuggie?

Charter schools are still a hot education topic in Maine.  A meeting in Augusta last month rekindled the fire.  Opponents of charter schools in Maine fear what will become of public schools.  They categorize charters as a slight to the hard work done in public schools.  Charters, some believe, undermine the public school system and must be avoided in Maine.  Charter schools are in fact public schools.  They do not charge admissions.  Charters do not have selective admissions policies; LD 1438 was quite clear on this.  Unfortunately, as a new article at Public School Insights points out, it may be overzealous charter supporters who are propagating these notions

Recent polls show that though two thirds of Americans(PDF Warning) support charter schools most don’t understand what they are.  This may have a great deal to do with how supporters market charter schools.  Charter schools are often touted as the solution to “bad” public schools.  This sets up charters not as public schools, but something in opposition to them.  Also if charter schools are the “good” solution, public schools must be the “bad”.  It is no wonder that organizations like the MEA are concerned. With language like that they should be.

These charter salespeople are giving opponents even more reason to harden their defenses.  As the Public School Insights article states, good charter schools have lessons for the public system and visa-versa.  Charter schools expand on the public school system, they do not subvert it. Charters give parents more options for their children.  That is what this is really about, not about destroying the public school system.  We must always be mindful that charter schools are not a panacea for all of our educational aliments.

Think of all those horrid commercials for what are likely good products.  A new vegetable slicer, listening device, or the ShamWow.  All of these products could be helpful.  Throw in some wacky announcer shouting at you about how you MUST have one and you start to get a bit skeptical.  After hearing these commercials over and over you may begin to write them off as gimmicky.  If charter supporters aren’t careful, charter schools could become just another educational Snuggie.

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