The current debate on the role of charter schools misses the mark. The notion that the entire K-12 public school system in this nation could be transformed to a charter school system is ridiculous and very much intended to distract from the real issue.
Accountability has been glossed over by many who defend under-performing schools, as well as school boards that are apparently driven more by politics than facts. Accountability is the key element missing from discussions here in Washington state—where I live—as well as across the nation.
Charter Schools Are Not the Problem
Poorly performing schools abound in the public education system and have for generations, especially in communities of color. In an attempt to address these shortcomings, charter schools have offered innovative approaches to educate our children. And it is essential that we hold these schools accountable for teaching our children.
Latino parents consistently favor school choice, and that makes sense in light of the decades of failures they have experienced.
The Latino population in Washington nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014. Unfortunately, Latinos have the lowest four-year college attendance and graduation rates.
If these trends continue, the economic future of Washington is in jeopardy. It is important to understand the sizable economic contribution the Latino community offers the state.
- Latinos paid $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2013.
- In 2014 Latino buying power totaled $18.3 billion, an increase of 806 percent from 1990!
As these numbers increase, the future success of our community and our state won’t be as bright if Latinos are left behind by the public education system. We must recognize the urgency that Latinos have to receive the best possible education, whether it be in a traditional public school or in a public charter school.
Not an Afterthought
Public education spending in Washington is at its highest level in nearly 30 years, but without accountability we squander that investment and continue to fail students and communities that can afford it the least.
Accountability for traditional and public charter schools cannot be an afterthought. It is the foundation of well-performing schools. It allows transparency into how teachers, administrators and school district officials perform their responsibilities in and around the classroom. It allows us all to assess where strengths and weaknesses exist and develop corrective action.
It allows us to know whether English-language learners are making needed progress and have allocated funds for that purpose. When public officials, educators, parents and communities have the information they need, we will be able to make better decisions, unlike the current prevailing “wisdom” that money is the only factor in student success.
Everyone in this state has a stake in ensuring that children are getting a quality education. Our community needs and deserves an educational system where equal opportunity is not simply a slogan but a reality. That won’t happen without accountability.