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Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's hard to feel bad for the families of Scholar Academy

The Duval County School Bard has voted to close the Scholar Learning Academy Charter School at the Bank of America building and this is what I have to say. 

I want to feel bad for these parents. I really do. But it's like trying to feel bad for people who smoke cigarettes for the health benefits and then are shocked and upset when they get cancer. It's like people who buy a long-haired dog and are upset that there's fur on the furniture. It's like people who hit themselves in the head with a hammer and complain about the headache.

Here are two things for charter school customers to remember, so they can avoid being shocked, stunned, angry or otherwise surprised in the future.

Charters are not run by elected school boards. They do not have to answer to the voters. They do not have to answer to the customers. They do not have to explain anything, and in some cases have gone to court to fight for their right to be just as non-transparent as they want to be. They are a business, and they don't have to show you their decision making process any more than McDonald's has to show you the recipe for their special sauce. 

Charters can close at any time for any reason. People seem to automatically associate the idea of a school with the idea of permanence. That's incorrect. Public schools are permanent. Charter schools are not. Public schools represent a community commitment to provide schooling as long as it's needed. Charter schools represent a business decision to operate as long as it makes sense. Enrolling your child in a charter is making a bet that the school will be in business as long as you want to send your child to it. If you lose the bet, you have to know that losing was always a possibility when you made the bet in the first place.

Considering a charter? Do your homework and understand the risks that come with choosing a charter. Pro tip: "doing your homework" does not mean "listening to charter sales pitch and nothing else." That's like getting info about the car you want to buy only from the salesman trying to sell it to you.

I believe it's possible to find charters that do a pretty okay job out there, but any charter comes with certainly fundamental differences from public school, and some come with differences that can be shocking or stunning if you haven't been paying attention. Bottom line? Charter schools are not created to be just like public schools-- and they aren't. If you're going to understand anything about putting your child in a charter, that's the bare minimum that you need to grasp.

Here is the thing, I didn't write above, and the author who did, Peter Greene of the Curmuducation blog wasn't even talking about the Scholar Academy, he was writing about two charter schools that just failed in Indiana. What he wrote however fits perfectly for whats happening here and in so many other communities.

All across the nation charter schools are opening in communities promising great things on the front end, making profits on the back end and then closing down leaving communities, families and students in a lurch. Over 270 have closed in Florida alone, on average one every three weeks.

It's just not right what Charter Schools ave become.

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