What are the true costs of charter schools?
Are they really free, as all their literature and supporters proudly proclaim?
Some people will point to the funding a school receives and claim that is the entire cost of a charter school to a community. They then compare the cost of maintaining the existing public system versus the cost of discarding what we’ve built and starting over from scratch. The truth is, there are many costs to communities and children that are hard to quantify precisely. That does not mean those costs don’t exist. The messaging of charter schools is very complex and amorphous, and it changes depending upon whom they are talking to. Charter schools try to be all things to all people . . . except their true natures. The truth is, charter schools are not “free” schools. They are not “free” private schools. They are private but they are not free. These schools cost taxpayers and communities quite a deal, but everyone likes to get something for nothing and oxymoronically, free sells.
However, not everyone is buying what they are giving away for free. In Baton Rouge, despite years of assaults on public schools by local businessman and construction mogul Lane Grigsby, the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, New Schools for Baton Rouge and Stand for Children, parents are still choosing to bus their children clear across the parish rather than send their kids to these “free” charter schools. It has gotten so bad that some schools, like Inspire Academy run by National Heritage Academies, is literally trying to bribe parents and their neighbors with gift cards to convince kids to try out their schools.
50 dollars for a referral might not sound like a lot, but that could buy enough uniforms in used condition to get through a school year. For people living in poverty, every little bit counts. Imagine if you had 3 or 4 kids. . .those cards could really come in handy around Christmas time. From the charter’s perspective, all they need to do is get the kids to stay through October and they get 10,000 dollars in MFP funds. If the kids don’t like the school, they can always transfer to the regular public school system, but those dollars don’t transfer with them. Those dollars that supported their “free” charter school stay with the charter. But the traditional public school has to stretch their funds to support anyone, which means less dollars and resources for kids who didn’t start out in a charter school. That “choice” impacts our choices.
The “free” gift card is funded by tax payer dollars. It was not free to us. The 10 grand that the charter school gets per child also comes from our dollars that was meant to fund our public schools, public schools that don’t pay families with gift cards to attend them; public schools which are being intentionally forced into bankruptcy, by charter schools and their supporters.
Does this matter to our political leaders like BESE President Chas Roemer and his sister, Caroline Shirley Roemer executive director of the Louisiana Charter Association?
BESE approved Willow Charter Academy in Lafayette, over the objections of the local school board. Willow Charter Academy is a NHA school and another NHA is under construction in Lafayette. In Baton Rouge we have Inspire Academy and in Baker we have Advantage Charter School. BESE, under Chas Roemer and his sister like to hand out free money. I guess it makes them feel popular. Do you still think charter schools are free? I guess it doesn’t matter. By all means try out the “free” charter school and collect your “free” gift card. I’m buying.
And don’t forget to Tell Your Friends!