Letter to Editor (Rural Papers)

Parents, teachers, administrators and community members,

You are probably under the impression that when a charter school bill passes Kentucky legislature later this month, your local school system — the heart of your community and one of the largest employers in your county — won’t be impacted. They’re telling you not to worry; that this legislation will only affect Jefferson and Fayette Counties, where charter school operators are going to help those poor, underserved “gap” kids who supposedly need them so badly. As a resident of Louisville, a parent of a recent JCPS graduate, and co-founder of a grassroots public education advocacy group called Save Our Schools Kentucky, I’m begging you not to believe the hype!

They won’t stop with Louisville and Lexington

This is not speculation. We only have to look at what’s transpired in the 43 other states, plus DC, where charters, corruption and decimation of cherished public schools have been rampant. House Rep. Phil Moffett said, “The most likely areas that will see charter schools first are Owensboro, Bowling Green, as well as counties near Cincinnati, Lexington and Louisville.” They’re not even trying to hide it!

Maybe you’re not worried because you don’t think that your county has enough students to support a rival charter school. Charter operators will find other creative ways to suck funds from your public schools, such as multi-county academies (such as Pataula in Georgia), vouchers and online schools. That’s right: state legislators who know nothing about your community want to make it easy for an outside, for-profit charter operator to siphon off students, dollars and resources and bundle them with students from other rural counties so as to make a very tidy profit. And this leaves you, the taxpayer, to make up the difference in funding and otherwise clean up the mess they leave behind.

Charter operators are like locusts. Soon after they ravage one community of their inexpensive-to-educate, high-performing students and lock their jaws onto your succulent recurring, AAA-rated tax dollars, they move on to their next most lucrative, vulnerable target.

Charters don’t work, not even for “urban kids”

Despite the relentless propaganda and cherry-picked “research” financed by wealthy out-of-state special interests, charter schools don’t produce better students. In fact, they often prey on vulnerable, at risk, low-advocacy students who are desperate for change. There is no statistically significant evidence that shows that charters improve outcomes for students. While outcomes for students with involved parents (you know, the ones who jump through the hurdles so their kid can attend a charter school) may outperform those who don’t, charter schools often leave the public schools in those same communities worse off than before. Just look at Detroit!

They will take money from your public schools, both directly and indirectly

Charter schools are funded by a fallacious per-pupil allocation that follows the student from the public school to the charter. Every student that leaves your local school means less money your already struggling school has for teachers, extracurriculars, supplies, lab fees and electives. Charters, and eventually vouchers and online schools, will siphon millions of dollars from Kentucky taxpayers — and not just from taxpayers in the counties where charter schools open. State school funding, which flows to charter schools, comes from every Kentucky taxpayer, including those hundreds of miles away.

They aren’t even public schools

Real public schools aren’t just schools that get public money; they’re schools that employ certified teachers, have local democratic control, and receive public input from parents and the community. A public school is controlled by parents and voters; if they don’t like what’s happening, they can run for the school’s Site-Based Decision-Making (SBDM) Council, or even for School Board. If you don’t like what KIPP, a charter school chain that spends more than $1.2 million per year on its top nine executives, is doing, you can’t fire its CEO, nor can you influence their curriculum, their strategy of pushing out students who don’t get great scores, nor even find out how many of their eighth graders complete high school. That’s not a public school! But that’s what will be coming to compete with your public school, skimming off the highest-scoring students, recruiting your top athletes, siphoning off funds which means cuts to teachers, electives, and special programs or raising taxes to make up the difference.

Can we speak frankly? Parent to parent? You don’t want these schools in your town, so please, please don’t let them force them on us. We don’t want them either. Call your legislators at 800-372-7181 and tell them you want them to #StopChartersInKY. Not just for your kids’ sakes, but for ours as well. Thank you.