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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Charter schools may be here to stay whether we like them or not.

By Greg Sampson

Charter Schools Will Not Go Away

At a recent presentation to Assistant Principals, Instructional Coaches, Deans of Displine, ISSP teachers, and District personnel, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti spoke of the competition that public schools face from charter schools and virtual academies.

They are not going away, he said. We have to begin to look at our parents as customers. We must market ourselves to our neighborhoods. Dr. Vitti wants these students to return to DCPS traditional public schools. He presented data that showed that charter schools in Duval County perform at the same levels as traditional public schools.

But parents think charter schools are a great option, Dr. Vitti continued, because charter schools market themselves as the way for parents to get a private school education using public money.

I believe what Dr. Vitti said and I applaud his goal to market our schools so parents return their children to our classrooms. However, the truth is that we are rowing upstream against the mighty Mississippi when it comes to bringing children back from charter schools.

The strategic plan published by the Florida Department of Education includes these goals: increase the number of charter schools from 518 in the 2011-12 school year to 829 schools for the 2017-18 school year, with 8.5% growth in the number of schools for a total of 60% growth over the six-year period; increase the number of students enrolled in charter schools from 179,940 to 359,880 over the same time period, a 12.5% growth in the number of charter school students for a 100% growth total over the same six years.

Since the overall number of children in schools will not grow over that period, the implication is clear. The State Board of Education and the Florida Department of Education are working to reduce enrollment in Florida’s traditional public schools. Here is the link to the strategic plan (look at items 3.4 and 3.6):

No matter how hard we try or how well we market our schools, charter schools will not go away.

(Greg Sampson is a DCPS teacher on special assignment as the instructional math coach for his school, which is located on the Westside.)

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