Law gives charter schools chances they deserve
Charter schools in South Carolina have struggled to get the authority and funding that they deserve. A bill adopted by the General Assembly last week should end much of that struggle. Finally.
Public charter schools operate under the assumption that parents should be given some choices in the school their children attend. As State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said, “A one-size-fits-all model of education simply doesn’t work for many students.”
But educators in the traditional public school system have resisted the charter school movement, saying these schools, governed by independent boards, drain money from non-charter schools.
These are public schools that can work and should be given a chance to demonstrate results. The Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, for example, has succeeded in attracting a diversity of students and teaching them well. Every member of its first graduating class will attend college. Six of them are the first in their families to do so. The school has 250 students on a waiting list to attend.
The bill, which passed the Senate 40-0 and the House by 87-15, offers encouragement to a broader range of charter schools.
For example, it permits single-gender public charter schools, and it allows institutions of higher education to sponsor public charter schools where their future students would be educated.
The bill also tries to squelch attempts by the public school establishment to punish or undermine charter schools. It prohibits reprisals against district employees who are involved in an application to establish a public charter school.
And it addresses the prickly issue of extracurricular activities. When Gov. Nikki Haley signs the law, students at charter schools will be able to participate in athletics and other activities at their resident public schools if those activities are not offered by the charter schools they attend.
Some would prefer to deny students this privilege, saying that these students should have factored into their decision the charter school’s extracurricular programs — or lack of them.
But schools should be about making things possible, not the opposite.
Students learn from playing basketball or being on the debate team. They are better rounded and better prepared for life.
The Legislature made the right decision by strengthening charter schools, and maximizing parents’ opportunities to ensure their children can attend a school that works for them.