The following is a response by guest blogger, Dr. Rebecca Good, to an article of January 21.
The drama surrounding the sudden “awakening” of Dallas ISD’s understanding of the impact that charters are having on their enrollment has kept several important messages from being heard. First of all, let us remember that charters are public schools. It is not as if a cabal of private school operators have invaded Dallas ISD’s territory. Charters were legislated by the state of Texas twenty years ago to answer the public’s call for schools that would embrace innovative curriculums free of the bonds of bureaucracy that still mire many ISDs. Uplift, Harmony, Life School, Responsive Ed, and Kipp, among others, answered that call, bringing high levels of expectation and instruction to the most challenging zip codes in the Dallas area and beyond.
It was not long before these charters, and others, found themselves in strong demand by parents seeking safer, academically rigorous free open-enrollment public charter schools. In fact, there are waiting lists at almost all charters in Dallas due to the desire of parents to exercise their right to school choice for the benefit of their children.
One of the messages that came out of the hullabaloo last week was that charters were “taking our kids.” Not so. Parents are bringing their children to charters, hoping for an opening. Another message was, “charters are taking our money.” Again no! - That money does not belong to an ISD; it is intended to educate our children wherever they can best do so!
That a DISD board trustee would address a City Council meeting to demand that a public school approved by the Texas Education Agency not receive a building permit is a reach of power that does not exist. Dr. Hinojosa said it correctly when he stated that Dallas ISD is “not the only game in town” any more. It does not, and under our current regulatory system, should not possess a monopoly on teaching our children.
Charter schools, especially the longer existing ones like the ones mentioned above, have succeeded at having safe, instructionally strong schools for scholars from poverty and of color. Why not cheer the charter movement as a motivator to clean up one’s own house, leaving the drama and politics behind? As a parent in Dallas, I would be offended that anyone would try to deny my family the right to school choice that has been granted by the state of Texas.
We North Dallas charter superintendents know that to keep our schools growing we must provide environments that encourage our scholars to continue to excel in meeting – and beating – those educational goals set by the TEA. Dallas ISD has begun to talk about plans to provide desirable student choices within its district. That is the kind of competition that would benefit today’s young students, enabling them to be the leaders of tomorrow.
May I suggest this - As National School Choice Week just concluded, let us all work together – Dallas ISD and the charter community - to bring high quality schools of choice to our scholars, whether they be in an ISD or charter school. Isn’t it time we remembered that we exist because of our “little people,” and that “big people” politics are best left to those who are not designing the future of our educational arena? I sincerely hope so...