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Bill Britt: Charter Schools: Give kids a chance

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama has many fine schools within the public education system, it also has schools that have failed for generations.

The Governor and the republican leadership is offering a change by way of charter schools. On the other side are most Democrats and the AEA leadership standing four-square against the idea.

For years, Alabama has burned countless bundles of money trying to fix its failing schools. Parents and teachers have prayed, scream and begged for change but their voice have gone unheard.

The Governor who has many times said, he likes big ideas, he likes to shake things up and think outside the box has offered to stand up for an program that has a good chance of offering another way, perhaps a better way for children in failing schools.

Many smart women and men from Alabama and around the country have worked tirelessly to craft a charter school program for the state.

It is time to give charter schools a chance. No one will die, no child will suffer and the world as we know it will not come to an end.

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The current public school system is little more than an nineteenth century idea with twenty-first century ideas bolted on to it. It is a Frankenstein, its creators shout to the heavens it’s alive, but it should not be. Our public school system on whole is little more than a hobgoblin from the dawn of the industrial age lumbering along without real form and void of the best ideas.

The system is broken, it needs to be dismantled and built anew but that is not going to happen. Charter schools, however, can be a third way, we need to give parents a chance.

Everyday we hear the same refrain, “Why not give public schools the same freedom as charter schools?” For generations Alabama’s public schools have been given time and money to improve, most districts have failed to meet the challenge and history has proven that there is a lack of will and ability to change. We cannot as a state continue to fund failure. There is an ever-widening gap between the lowest on the socioeconomic ladder and the middle class. Education was designed to lift all of our children no matter where they come from but the disparity is apparent. We need to give parents and students in these areas another way.

Some have said that charter schools will bring back school segregation, recently AEA boss Henry Maybry, used the backdrop of the commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery march to say that charter schools will re-segregate Alabama’s public schools.

Mr. Maybry, whose own children attend a tiny private school, may not have noticed but that has already happened. Did the AEA miss the last 30 years? Alabama schools have been resegregated since the 80s. It is a sad thing that people fought so hard for an idea that silently slipped away while society stood by watching. Under our current system African-Americans and Hispanic students tend to be concentrated in schools where they make up almost the entire student body. It is time to find another way, to give kids a chance no matter their race, class, or gender. Unlike Alabama’s current public schools that are managed in districts, charter schools are open to all. Using a lottery system, prospective students have a chance of attending a school that has more diversity.

There are reasonable concerns about charter schools being exploited by for-profit educational management organizations, which operate schools to only make money. If this were to become the case in Alabama a demand for transparency and accountability must be stringently enforced.

For generation some of Alabama’s children have endured failing public schools. All the while parents and teachers have searched for ways to increase the effectiveness of our education system and give children a shot at a better tomorrow. Most people have believed that a better schools lead to better student and opportunities increase for all.

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It is time to give charter schools a chance, our children deserve a brighter tomorrow.

Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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