For the record, my colleagues and I who support charter schools are deeply disturbed by the scandal surrounding Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) — yet another charter school-related problem of criminal activity allegations.
We are upset not only with the idea of anyone misusing public funds, but more selfishly perhaps, we know that we, as charter school overseers, will once again be faced with the challenge of defending our own charter schools and our charter school staffs that have worked year after year without fanfare; who do not misuse public funds; who do not misrepresent their credentials; who truly do make a difference in the lives of our students day after day, year after year.
We know we will be scrutinized, put under the microscope of suspicion, asked to do more paperwork, more reporting, more substantiating. And we understand. And we will comply.
But it is also important for the public to be aware that the majority of charter schools in the state are run by honest, hardworking, and selfless individuals. It is also important for the public to know that our schools run on less money than their neighborhood, non-charter school counterparts, that we receive little help for buildings and infrastructure, for management or health insurance.
We are asked to do much with very little. And we do.
We do not believe we have all the answers, but we do desire an education system where innovation and expertise can flourish, and where children can immediately benefit from the work.
We hold open lotteries where all children can apply and have an equal chance at coming to our schools. The implications made by some that we take the “best” students from the non-charter public schools is simply wrong. If you do not believe this, you are welcome to attend our mandated lotteries to see for yourselves.
These lotteries are well documented and completely open to the public, as are the public sessions of the board. We have and will continue to be transparent in our work. We understand the enormous responsibility of teaching children, and using taxpayer money to do it.
We are not naïve. When there is wrongdoing by one person or one institution, all reputations are tarnished, if only by association.
But before you judge us all, please take the time to really investigate the work of the many charter schools in your state, many of which have been servicing children for more than 15 years, without fanfare, without acknowledgement – except perhaps by their students, who come back to us year after year, knowing that their years at a charter school made a significant difference in their lives now: as college students, as successful high school students, as responsible citizens, as kids with bright futures.
Anne Magee Dichele is a professor in the School of Education at Quinnipiac University, director of their Master of Arts in Teaching Program, and chair of the board of the Side By Side Charter School in Norwalk, CT.