EDITORIAL

Charter school expansion would leave most children behind

By SANDRA CANO and ANA B. QUEZADA
Posted 3/3/21

By SANDRA CANO and ANA B. QUEZADA Providing access to a quality public education is a primary responsibility of policymakers and elected officials. All children are entitled to a quality education no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or zip code.

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EDITORIAL

Charter school expansion would leave most children behind

Posted

Providing access to a quality public education is a primary responsibility of policymakers and elected officials. All children are entitled to a quality education no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or zip code.

The moratorium on charter school expansion recently approved by the Rhode Island Senate is neither anti-education nor anti-charter school. Rather, it is about saving traditional public schools, thereby ensuring every child in our state has a fighting chance at a quality education before it’s too late.

Recently, the Board of Education granted preliminary approval of 5,835 more charter school seats. Any increase to the number of seats at charter schools inherently draws financial resources from traditional public schools, and the estimated fiscal impact of this expansion exceeds $90 million. The new and expanded charter schools would be funded through $25.4 million charged to the sending districts directly. Those sending districts would also forego state aid of approximately $66.9 million, which would instead be directed to the new charter schools. That is on top of the increased demand for resources from school district struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These districts, which range from Pawtucket to Providence to Woonsocket to Warwick, simply cannot afford it. We’ve already seen what losing these precious dollars could mean: cuts to career and tech education, ELL programming, services for students with special needs, or even sports and music. The moratorium recently approved by the Senate isn’t about teachers or unions, it’s about giving the General Assembly and policy makers the necessary time to review the current funding structure for public education before it’s too late.

While we appreciate the opportunities created for some children by charter schools, the fact remains that these opportunities do not exist for every child in Rhode Island. In part, charter schools were created to raise the bar for all public schools by developing innovative practices that could be replicated in a traditional public school setting. Instead, they have been an anchor around the neck of public education. Two parallel education systems in Rhode Island now exist: the charter schools flush with public cash and traditional schools starved of resources.

It is imperative, for the sake of all schoolchildren, that we pause and reexamine our funding formula. In 2019, the General Assembly passed sweeping education reforms modeled on successes in Massachusetts that will raise curriculum standards and increase accountability. In 2018, voters approved an historic $250 million investment in public school facilities to create first-rate classrooms and institutions of learning. As these investments and reforms take hold, now is not the time to starve school districts of precious resources for instruction and programming.

Let’s be clear, we are not “anti-charter school.” The General Assembly has permitted considerable charter school expansion over the last decade. We are now asking for respite and a three-year pause to ensure the expansion of charter schools does not come at the expense of every other child left behind in a public school classroom.

As the appropriating authority, we have a responsibility to look holistically at the entire education structure. Moreover, we have a moral obligation to ensure that every student, in every school district, has the opportunity to receive a quality education.

Sen. Sandra Cano, a Democrat, represents District 8 (Pawtucket) in the Rhode Island Senate and serves as chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Ana B. Quezada, a Democrat, represents District 2 (Providence) in the Senate and serves as deputy majority whip.

Comments

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Allan Bucklin

No anti-education and not anti-Charter schools but pro public education. My view of your letter is that you are anti education and pro union. I believe Charter school came about because the public school system was failing and it is still failing. One type of education does not fit all. We are all different and we learn differently. We need an education system that is best for our children. An education system that honors our achieving teachers, honors their innovation. I believe the unions have restricted our teachers from teaching and not firing the poor teachers. Thinking about this where are the parents input and would the voucher system, which would apply to all, work for a better education system where parents can have more say about their child's education. I'm a product of the public education and I know how poor my education was. Our children is where we need to focus. If charter schools do it better then close the public schools and open all charter schools

Friday, March 19