Charter Schools Offer Parents Another Option
Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D.
Parents who are unhappy with traditional public schools seek other options. In response to this quest, public schools have offered alternative schools, magnet schools, and public school choice, among others. Until recently, private schools and homeschooling were the two primary alternatives to public schools.
When Ray Budde, New England educator, suggested local school boards give small groups of teachers "charters" to explore new approaches, a new type of public school was born. In the 1980's Philadelphia started the first "charter" schools as schools-within-schools.
What is a charter school?
A charter school is a public school that is begun by a group of teachers, parents and or a community who operate under a contract with the school district. Free of the restrictive rules of school bureaucracy, charter schools enjoy more freedom and flexibility and receive the same dollar for dollar funding as other public schools. Their contracts are often for a three to five year term, at the end of which they must prove that their students have gained the skills set forth in their contract.
While charter schools share the common element of "choice", they differ based on the founders' vision for the community. During a trip to my hometown, St. Louis, MO, I met with a childhood friend, Fred Robinson, who is cofounder of a charter school in the St. Louis Public School System.
In November of 2000, Fred and co-founder, Bernadine Stinson, organized the Paideia Academy with the concept of “wanting the best possible education for children.” Their nonsectarian charter school offers a public education with a private focus. They seek to serve families with children aged five through fourteen. They actively seek racial, cultural and socioeconomic diversity in its student body.