A response from Keith Jacobs to The Sun, Gainesville – December 3, 2018:
The editorial published Nov. 23 in The Gainesville Sun, “More oversight needed for charter schools,” exemplifies how charter opponents put their personal feelings above student needs. Educational choice is not the enemy of traditional public schools. It is the result of parents’ desire to find an education setting specific to their child’s needs — needs that are not being fulfilled in their current school setting.
Additionally, the editorial will have you believe that charter schools are private schools. To be clear, charter schools are public schools. Not only are they tuition free, but they also serve over 295,000 students in Florida through 655 schools. More specifically, 14 charter schools are in Alachua County. Stop punishing students and denying parents the right to educational choice.
It has become common for educational choice opponents to galvanize support for traditional public schools by stating there is a lack of oversight. This fear tactic is usually followed by statistics of school closures, financial woes and low academic success rates.
The editorial in The Sun is no different. In fact, it went a step further by decrying a voucher program that provides school choice to students who are bullied. What source of human compassion would be in favor of denying students who are bullied the opportunity to thrive in an alternative educational setting where they feel safe? This is a callous perspective that neglects the foremost responsibility of any school: student safety.
In education, one bad apple does not spoil the bunch. There are incidents of malpractice in the educational field that resonate with parents. However, these infractions are not an indictment of all practices.
The editorial would have readers believe that the actions of the Newpoint Charter School owner are the norm. On the contrary, charter schools are held to an elevated level of accountability by both the sponsoring school district and the Florida Department of Education. Charter schools are required to demonstrate student academic proficiency and are measured by the same Florida Standards as traditional public schools.
As a result, according to the Florida Department of Education, in 2018, 94 percent of charter schools scored a “C” or better, and 189 schools were considered high-performing. Of the 655 charter schools, almost half (47percent) scored an “A” on the accountability school grade report.
Charter schools fulfill the individual needs of underserved populations with greater success rates. In fact, according to the Florida Department of Education, 68.3 percent of charter students are black or Hispanic, and 54.9 percent of charter students receive free or reduced lunches.
These subgroups have long been prisoners of their neighborhoods, forced into a perpetual cycle of despair due to inferior educational options based on their socioeconomic status. They strive to end generational poverty and expand limited opportunities to plant the seeds of fruition for future generations. Charter schools provide this hope.
The voice of parent power through educational choice will not be shamed or silenced. The editorial asked, “Why do they do it?” I say, have the courage to ask a charter school parent.
Keith Jacobs is manager of the Charter School Initiative for Step Up for Students, a Florida non-profit.