Burke Middle High has been in the headlines a lot lately. Even now, there are back-and-forth columns on whether they should make Burke a charter school, or if charter schools are in fact the culprit. Both sides agree that the solution is to increase diversity, but both see very different methods in achieving the goal.
In the middle of this battle is Charleston Charter School of Math and Science, a public school choice option, a model of diversity, and an option for parents seeking a better education for their children.
In the Rev. Joseph Darby’s editorial, he mentioned how he believed charter schools funding “adversely impacts funding for already underfunded traditional public schools.”
He noted this, in spite of the fact that, in 2011, Burke spent $12,324 per student, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. In contrast, CCSMS spent $8,564 per student. This was a decrease of over 8 percent from the previous year, over 30 percent less than their neighboring Burke.
That’s a staggering difference when you take into account that CCSMS had a 100 percent graduation rate, and even more, a 100 percent college acceptance rate.
With the statistics in front of you, it is virtually impossible to point blame at CCSMS, or other school choice options.
Due to their innovation, and lack of red tape that often impair our neighborhood schools, charter, magnet, and Montessori schools are often the most successful in the district.
So is it fair to fault these schools for the failures of those schools around them? I don’t believe so.
As a parent, I do not believe the path to success is by limiting parents’ options in education.
I believe it is by increasing quality options, so that more children have access to the best education, regardless of neighborhood or background.
I believe, instead of punishing innovative and creative schools, we should strive to emulate them.
As a member of the Charleston County School Board, it is my duty to help provide the very best education possible to each and every child in our district.
That not only means increasing options for all students, but improving neighborhood schools like Burke, so that parents want to send their children there.
Conversion to charter is an option that should be considered. It is an option that two other neighborhood schools, James Island High School and Orange Grove Elementary, took several years ago. Each school is diverse, and each earned an “A” on this year’s report card.
Furthermore, Orange Grove Charter Elementary has virtually closed the gap between low income and higher incomes students. .
Asking parents in Burke’s attendance zone what programs they would like for their children, and then empowering them to implement them through a charter contract would immediately increase the diversity of this school.
It has the potential of making it one of the most sought after schools in the district.
So while some may attack “choice” as the culprit, the statistics simply do not agree.
In “closing the gap” in Charleston County Schools, “choice” is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Brian P. Thomas
Charleston County School Board
Dove Haven Court