The 161 letters of intent for new public charter schools received by the state last week include 10 in Durham County. What’s more, there is a virtual school Durham kids could choose as well. And that has Durham school board member Natalie Beyer worried, according to the Herald-Sun.
“To me, it comes to a question of what our vision for all our local schools is, and to me this feels very chaotic,” said Beyer, a member of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. “If the state board granted 10 additional charters to join the 10 already promised here, we’d be closing doors of existing schools.”
First, charter schools ARE public schools. They are simply another option for parents to choose. They are tuition-free and there are waiting lists for seats in existing schools around the state, which means parents are looking for choices that are a better fit for their children.
Second, this should not worry or scare any board member. They should be delighted to see parents getting actively involved in education.
Third, board members should wonder what it is about existing traditional public schools that are not meeting the needs of some of the kids they’re responsible for preparing to enter adult life as productive citizens with marketable skills.
Clearly, traditional schools work for many parents and they want to stay at these schools. That’s fine. I support their right to choose what’s best for them. But what about those parents and kids whose needs aren’t being met? Their needs shouldn’t be pushed aside because board members don’t like the idea of competition and/or are focused more on the system than on individual children.
It is my hope that Ms. Beyer has a change of heart and welcomes the diversity of public charters that are looking to call Durham County home and serve the kids in the area. In March, we will find out which of the schools take the next step and make a full application for a public charter.
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