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Charters are public schools 

Patrick and Lisa Mieritz purchased the back page of your March 13 edition to write a letter to Gov. Jared Polis attacking charter schools. While their vitriol for charter schools, which educate many students who are economically disadvantaged and of color, was bad enough, it is their total disregard for facts and truth that left me no choice but to respond.

Let me deconstruct their screed, sentence by sentence, using their words;

“[O]ur Public Schools are very efficient and accountable to all citizens.” Were that the case, why are they so worried about competition from charter schools which, by the way, are public schools? Accountable? Where is the accountability to low-income families whose kids attend poor-performing neighborhood schools in low socioeconomic areas? Why shouldn’t the children of low-income parents go to quality schools, and have dreams just like more affluent families?

• They call charters “private, corporate schools,” their attempt to cast charters in the most pejorative, snide terms. But they are wrong! CHARTERS ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS! They educate kids, many of whom are ethnic and/or low-income, whose parents have chosen a charter over a traditional public school for reasons important to them. Maybe the Mieritzes simply don’t believe those parents should be empowered to make their own choices.

“We have spent 100 years creating efficiency through consolidation of small districts to larger ones.” Despite consolidations, Colorado still has 178 school districts, prioritizing local control over centralized bureaucracy. Where is any evidence that larger districts are more financially efficient or produce better academic results? Mega-districts in large cities may spend more than two times as much per student as Colorado and still produce worse student outcomes.

“With about 125,000 Charter School students in Colorado this cost loss is about $600,000,000 annually.” Loss? Every single child attending a charter is there because his or her parents made a conscious, proactive choice about what they think is best for them. “Cost loss” — is that suggesting the kids on whom this money is being spent are less worthy than those in traditional public schools?

These are all Colorado kids, and they all deserve access to the education their parents think is best for them.

“Would it not be a good goal to get this money back into our public education system?” How many times do Mr. and Mrs. Mieritz need to be reminded that charter schools are a part of our public school system, serving about 15 percent of Colorado’s students?

• And finally, “I think that the Colorado public schools could use this $600,000,000 per year to benefit our students.” Excuse me. Those dollars are benefiting some 125,000 students.

Despite all the flawed, purposefully distorted arithmetic, this mean-spirited, vicious attack on charter schools misses the most important point — charter schools are public schools that are chosen by parents, many economically disadvantaged. Every choice is voluntary. Charter schools thrive or fail based upon their success convincing parents to select them, competing in a marketplace against schools of every type, be they traditional public, charter public, private or home. They must re-prove themselves every day. 

When more than half the children in Colorado’s public schools cannot read, write, add and subtract at grade level, we should celebrate the landscape that produces a variety and diversity of charter schools that exist only as long as they satisfy the needs of parents. If traditional public schools meet those needs, then parents should, by all means, send their children there. But if not, we should be thankful for the alternatives that charters provide to them.

Steve Schuck has been developing real estate in Colorado Springs, Denver, Phoenix and Portland for over 50 years. He and his wife, Joyce, created Parents Challenge 20 years ago, a privately funded program that empowers low-income families with the informational and financial resources to choose the schools they think are best for their children, be they traditional public, charter public, private or home.

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