Charter schools are back in the news

Ambar Abelar



An observer of the educational system, as opposed to one formed by it cannot fail to notice the deliberate use of semantics in framing political issues in general, and education in particular.

In the past few weeks, the Red Bank Charter School has appeared back in the news.

The reminder of the school’s contentious birth was unavoidable — which brings us to the issue of framing “Public Education.”

In the fight against charter schools such as Red Bank’s, opponents have clearly pitted the charter movement as opposed to “public education.”

Putting the traditional school inside, and the charter school outside, the frame of public education is a clumsy use of semantics that fools no observer. No one would argue that the old Soviet Politburo was “public” government. (It governed everybody, didn’t it?)

The similarities are tantalizing: The old Soviet system was threatened by the creation of self governments, decentralized from the party. That, it was thought, would bring a stark, prerevolutionary division of classes.

Here, the idea is that the charter schools would “skim” students with concerned parents (and here there is a racial component), that is, good students, thus leaving public schools with the worst cases — and with less funds.

Following the logic implied, the eventual extinction of public schools is inevitable as they would be incapable of keeping up with educational standards.

It is difficult to see it that way. Quite simply, the facts speak for themselves, and they show the contrary.

There has not been a racial imbalance, or “white flight,” and there has not been a difference in academic achievement either.

Even if public education were relegated to care for the worst cases, i.e., the mythological “unwanted” students rejected by the charter schools, that too would demand the true calling of educators in the same way that attorneys undertake representation of perceived undesirables and physicians treat the very sick.

It would be unthinkable to ascribe to those behind charter schools the opposite view of public education as implying the demise of free basic education and the creation of clusters of uneducated children. They are passionate people on the issue, and free — but not unaccountable — from bureaucratic shackles to innovate and experiment, they will eventually produce results.

In short, they are a blessing for any community.

To an observer, detached from the sentimentality of being formed in the system, charter schools are yet another expression of the great American experiment, an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, generator of so much human greatness — albeit yet to be demonstrated in standard educational tests.

Ambar Abelar is an attorney with a practice in Long Branch