My mother called this week to ask me what I thought about “this charter school issue.” Mind you, my mother has never called to ask my opinion on anything before. I wasn’t available at the time, so she left a message. Then I got busy and forgot, and she called again. Actually, I just think she wanted to chat.
I had to confess that I was quite ignorant on the subject. I haven’t even watched “Waiting for Superman.” What I know about the issue could fit on the head of a pin. From what I know, charter schools are private schools that receive public funding but have fewer regulations than public schools. As I understand things, the idea is to improve education in struggling districts by offering an alternative to the public system. Naturally, public educators are nervous about this two-tiered system.
When I couldn’t give my mother any specific information and recommendation, she offered up her understanding of the issue. She said, “Well, from what I can understand, there are some good things about charter schools and some bad things about charter schools.” I think that sums it up in a nutshell.
I know we have some serious education problems, but I don’t know the best way to address them. There are stellar charter schools out there making a difference in children’s lives. I’ve seen profiles of Geoffrey Canada and his Harlem’s Children Zone. There are others having a huge impact in their communities, but I worry.
Here in Mississippi, we still operate under the burden of our racial history. Can we create real reform in education without looking like we’re heading back to the days of separate but equal? Can we keep our public system, the one that services about 90 percent of our children, intact? As a huge proponent of public education, I think we need to tread lightly.
>> Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her website is www.newper.com.