Series on charter schools fails tests of accuracy and fairness

Series on charter schools fails tests of accuracy and fairness

Charter school support- ers have learned to expect constant attacks from teachers unions and traditional public school districts. But the allegations and misleading information featured in a recent three-part series by the Akron Beacon Journal and The NewsOutlet, a “student-journalism lab” headquartered in Youngstown (and published by The Vindicator), takes these predictable attacks to a new level.

One could refute and provide much-needed clarification on the three key allegations made against charter schools in the series: inadequate response to verbal requests for information (rather than a professional, written public records request), poor oversight by not-for-profit boards (based on responses by members of one charter school board) and unreasonable costs of student transportation services (to which all eligible students are entitled, regardless of the type of school they attend).

Those who support charters recognize that the series failed to portray a fair and accurate picture.

Sadly, those who believe that charter schools shouldn’t exist will most likely never change their views, no matter how compelling the facts may be.

But readers whose views lie somewhere between those of strong proponents and opponents should ask themselves a few key questions in formulating their position on charters.

Why have the parents of more than 120,000 Ohio public school children chosen public charter schools over traditional public schools?

Should school choice be an option only for the wealthy, or do economically disadvantaged families also have that right?

Should school districts focus on attacking charter schools, or should they seek to understand the reasons they have lost such significant market share and take corrective action to better meet all students’ needs?

Rather than seeking to disparage all charter schools, should we, as a society, take a more constructive approach, focusing efforts on how to improve our overall system of public education and better address the challenges and needs of students who live in poverty?

Donald Penson, Dublin

Penson is chairman of the board of Buckeye Charter Schools Inc.