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Get the facts straight on charter schools

The statements in the April 9 letter from Lawrence German need to be addressed. Much has changed regarding charter schools and education reform since his term on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education (1981). Phony facts are being perpetuated and need correction.

Charter schools are part of the public school system. They are not private schools. Charter schools are not an enemy of traditional public schools but complement them. Our (traditional) public schools are good schools and serve our state well, but that does not mean that there cannot be room for improvement or, most importantly, another way to reach students and help them succeed.

Charter schools give students an option when one-size-fits-all “traditional school settings” do not work. Charters are also living laboratories for innovation, for trying new teaching and learning techniques. And, charter schools are open to any and every student.

Charter schools are called charter schools because the schools present an education plan and are granted permission – a charter – to proceed. The charter community in New Mexico wants state regulations and enhanced state oversight of charter schools. Fair regulations strengthen our schools and provide accountability. Charter schools and traditional public schools should be closed or reformed when they do not meet their mission or violate our laws.

Charter schools do not take money from public schools; again, they are public schools. When a student transfers from one traditional public school to another – say from Valley to Rio Grande High – the funding … travels with that student. Valley should not keep money for a student it is not teaching. The same is true when a student transfers to a charter school….

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Actually, only some of the funding moves with the student. Funding for facilities and support activities – such as the APS records staff, administrative personnel, procurement, property management, public relations staff, various compliance personnel such as EEO, child abuse, testing specialists, etc. – does not. These functions are performed at charter schools by existing charter personnel but without additional funding to cover those expenses. Mr. German is correct about one thing: Traditional public schools do have a “far greater (number) of personnel to administer”. …

Charters have been successful in teaching and reaching students worldwide. They reach students the traditional system cannot or has not been able to reach. Many cities in the United States have waiting lists and lottery-type selection processes for prospective students because parents know attending a charter school can change their child’s life forever. Embrace the potential of our charter system – students and their teachers do.

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