Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Last Respectable Form of Discrimination

Many school districts have begrudgingly made peace with charter schools, if only because their popularity with parents means the concept is here to stay. I say “begrudgingly” because many school districts, resenting the competition, will still find ways to undermine and underfund charters, treating them like the proverbial ugly step child, when they get the chance.

The Denver Rocky Mountain News today quite correctly takes Denver area school districts to task for putting $1.9 billion in bond measures before voters that, in the editorial’s words, offer “charter schools little more than crumbs from the table.” Explains The Rocky:

“According to Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charters Schools, only about $15 million of the bond proceeds have been allocated to the metro area's 56 charters. That's only about 0.8 percent of the total going to more than 5 percent of the students. (There are approximately 21,000 charter-school students among these school districts and roughly 386,000 students in all.)”

It’s long past time that school districts in Colorado and elsewhere got over the idea that charter schools are somehow different from conventional public schools, and stopped treating the parents and students who attend these schools as second class citizens, even though they are every bit as worthy of full funding, and of respect, and of equal treatment under the law, as any other public school patron.

We don’t tolerate such discrimination in other public policy arenas; why do we tolerate it in regard to charter schools? It's a segregationist mindset, minus the racial component.

Not every Denver-area school district cops this attitude, thankfully. Jefferson County Public Schools, Jim Griffin tells the Rocky, treats its charters like partners, not competitors. “This is how the process was meant to work," concludes The Rocky. “If school districts continue to leave charter schools out in the cold, the legislature should revisit the issue and consider more forceful means of assuring that charters get their fair share."

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