• June 18th, 2024
  • Tuesday, 05:56:45 AM

Same Rules for All Schools


 

Manuel Solano

Posted May 16, 2024

 

Don’t be fooled by the doom and gloom tactics the charter school industry is using to persuade parents and the general public that attending charter schools is the better choice. It’s not.

 

As a Chicano, I resent the fact that my community has been led to believe that Charter schools are superior to traditional public schools. They’re not. In fact, according to data compiled from the Colorado Department of Education’s website, charter schools on average do no better academically than traditional public schools.

 

Yet, charters are allowed to automatically waive many of the state laws that give them special privilege. One example is charters can waive out of hiring licensed teachers. I believe all students deserve a highly qualified teacher.

 

Public school teachers are experts in their field of emphasis. To earn a teaching degree and certification they must have a B.A. and must take numerous classes to get the initial licensure. They are then required to take additional classes to become a Master teacher and an administrator.

 

As a Chicano, I resent the fact that my community has been led to believe that Charter schools are superior to traditional public schools. They’re not.

 

Because charter schools do not require teachers to have a teaching license, it often results in low pay and high teacher turnover. Charter school teachers are paid approximately $10,000 to $15,000 less than teachers in real public schools. Stable work forces ensure continuity of instruction and techniques for our children. Eliminating automatic waivers could stabilize the charter school workforce.

 

Another automatic waiver is the hiring and firing practices for teachers.  Charter school teachers are “at will” employees. They have no protections afforded by a union. Unions have been the very foundation of the middle class. Through their union, teachers and staff have the ability to negotiate from a position of strength with employers over wages, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work- related issues. This ensures a healthy, stable work environment.

 

Republican and some Democratic legislators, through their votes, have been shown to be anti-union. These Democrats claim they are pro-union in their campaign literature and interview process, but their voting record shows the opposite. Unions must hold them accountable. All unions must unite in solidarity and save traditional public schools. If you are a Union member, please bring this issue before your brothers and sisters.

 

Charters have created a dual competing system of public school government. When a charter school opens it must have a board of directors, a building, a management team, teachers, maintenance staff, and other employees. This is a duplication of what traditional schools offer and takes money away from the classroom.

 

In real public schools, the community votes for individuals to sit on the school board to represent their children and ensure taxes are properly spent. Most charters are run by an unelected board whose members sometimes live outside of the community in which they represent. Some of these board members even live outside of Colorado!

 

Further, Colorado law requires a school district to rent any vacant public school district building to charter schools at no cost. If they are in the Charter School Institute, then it’s one dollar per month, 12 dollars per year. This is less than a burrito per month or a dozen yearly. What about the TAX PAYER?

 

All taxes received and spent in public schools are open and transparent to the public. It’s the Law. Charters are non-profits mostly managed by for-profit management corporations, where the money trail is often murky and unavailable to the public. Last year Colorado spent over 8 billion dollars on K-12 public education. Over 2 billion went to the 266 charter schools, serving 137,000 students, with minimal fiscal transparency and accountability. Shouldn’t charter schools be as fully transparent and accountable to the public as real public schools?

 

In April of this year, there was a bill HB24-1363 called “Charter School Accountability Act” assigned and heard by the House Education Committee. The bill addressed transparency and accountability of charter schools. The well-funded charter school industry came out screaming against the bill falsely claiming the sponsors were trying to kill charter schools.

 

The chairperson, a Democrat, implied that charter schools are public schools, and the bill was an affront to the charter schools. Not so. You can’t have it both ways. If you claim charters are public schools, then demand the same rules, just because the legislature calls them public schools doesn’t make them so. They aren’t accountable to the community nor the taxpayer.

 

The sponsors were simply attempting to level the playing field asking for full transparency and accountability for all schools.

 

The Chicano community should demand full transparency and accountability of our public school tax dollars. Demand same rules for all schools.

 

 

Manuel Solano graduated from Adams 14 School District, University of Colorado, and CU Law School. He was the regional director of civil rights law firm called MALDEF, and a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He now continues his work as an attorney advocating for public education justice as a board member of the organization, Advocates for Public Education Policy (A4PEP).