When the president-elect-racist announced his list of possible education secretaries, articles started to pour in speculating on the effect each candidate would have on education in this country. Some authors concentrated on illustrating a collapse of public education, while others glorified the privatization, finally a green light.
If you haven’t read one, this reasonable article published by Education Week is worth your time. The authors say it straight:
“Here’s a reality check for both sides. Most of the nation’s 50 million K-12 schoolchildren will stay where they already are—in neighborhood public schools.”
That certainly is comforting on the large scale. The public system is safe—mostly. But…
It’s not calming statement for our small public schools with age-staggered enrollment. A single new charter targeting certain age group could reduce enrollment in the public school to the point when it would become unsustainable to keep it open. (Charters almost always open with just one or two grades).
In anticipation of accelerated changes coming our way I wanted to get informed about specifics how Malverne funds charters currently. Remember, the privatization of public education is not new. The trend based on the narrative of “failing schools” has been here for 20 years. Our current governor ran his 2014 campaign on the platform of “breaking up the monopoly.”
I arranged a meeting with the top Malverne UFSD managers and here is what we were talking about.
- The public pays $20,205/y in installments per a pupil enrolled in a charter. The SED sets the amount annually (last SY it was $19,705). The public gets the invoice.
- The distance of the “school of choice” doesn’t matter, but the public only pays for transportation within 15-mile radius (in addition to the tuition amount above).
- The addresses of all students enrolled in a charter, currently about 20, are verified, of course.
- None of the students currently enrolled in a charter withdrew from the public system. They started their school attendance by choice—enrolling in a charter.
This last point is very important in my opinion. Once a student is enrolled in the public system, the student stays in the system, or, later, pursues schools other than a charter. There are various reasons for enrolling in a charter right off the starting line. One reason could be as simple as that the parent works for the charter. We can’t do much about it. (I would like to talk to parents about their reasons for choosing a charter—anonymously).
But there is myriad other reasons we—the public—can address. I have the impression that the “life” of our public system starts with the pride—the music. Then, the life continues with robotics, more music, and with the “amazing” rankings on various charts, and also sports. I have been in the system for 5 years and I am just now, slowly getting within the reach of the “life.” It’s been a long time. It feels like the “little people” at Downing are forgotten, as they can’t feed the data in the charts and take photo-ops for PRs.
I think we can do better. It’s in public interest to innovate the curricula and extra-curricula at M.W. Downing school. Targeted branding also helps. It will serve us who are already in and will entice more parents to not enroll in charters in the future.