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School choice debate comes to Del Campo

We asked teachers here at Del Campo to explain what they think about charter and private education.

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School choice debate comes to Del Campo

Holly Pearson, Copy Editor

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Teacher strikes have risen all across the United States over low wages, low resources, and the issue of school choice. School choice is an issue that has sharply divided much of the U.S and holds the fate of public education, but what is school choice?
First, let’s give some context:
Magnet schools specialize in specific fields, such as the arts or science, and tend to promote racial and socio-economic integration.
Charter schools are publicly funded but run independently by nonprofits or for-profit companies. Charter schools write their own charter, which means they choose the quality of education and standards of teachers they hire. This also means they can turn away students based on that charter.
Vouchers (which go by other names, such as scholarships) are state funds given to parents so they can pay (in part) for private school tuition. States finance vouchers with public funds that would otherwise go to traditional public schools. In some states, parents can also use vouchers for religious schools. The vouchers do not cover the entirety of private school tuition, thus potentially forcing the especially impoverished students to go to public schools underfunded by voucher program.

The idea of school choice allows students to attend schools, alternative to public school, such as charter, magnet, or private schools. Students already have the choice to go these schools under open enrollment policies. The question is what will having the option to go to alternative schools do to the public school system?
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This is a complicated subject. Some see that students migrating to non-public schools will undercut the public system´s resources, diminish teachers rights (as charter and private schools don’t have unions), and promote socio-economic segregation in quality of education by redirecting funding that could otherwise go toward improving public education. Others say that it will give public schools incentive to do better and create needed competition, as well as give all students the option to go to the school that fits them best.

The Roar interviewed several teachers on campus to get their opinion on school choice.

Economics teacher, Kenyan Epps expresses his concerns about allowing student choice, “No I do not agree with the policies. They’re generally anti-union and [Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos] does not have any public school experience. She seems unwilling to consider the opinions of public school teachers.”

AP U.S. History teacher Jason Lottes, whose daughter goes to a charter school, said, ”Charter schools cannot turn away students for any reason, unless the school has too many kids”. He added, that not having a union for teachers at charter schools “is scary but we need better schools. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to education. That’s why I like school choice¨

Sarah Pfarr,  a San Juan Teacher’s Association (SJTA) Representative and English teacher, who knows a family with a special needs son, said, “Charter schools get to choose the students they take and don’t necessarily have to accept special education kids. I know a family who was turned away in Placer County because their child had autism – he had to be homeschooled”.

Public schools get paid per student, so less students, less money for the school. For public school that means, higher rate of campus decay, less resources for students and teachers, and a overall lower quality of public education.

Pfarr, explains, “While the funding formula is complicated, what it comes down to is, each student sitting in a desk has an amount of money allocated to the school for them, and each student that is directed away from public school takes that money with them, creating a surplus in empty seats and shortage of resources.”

Some say that taking money from public school will lower the public standard of education and force students who can’t pay for private school (even with vouchers), or aren’t accepted at charter, to go to underfunded public schools. This could segregate quality of education by wealth status. Others say that students and parents deserve the right to find the best school for their needs.

School choice is a complicated, divisive, and important issue. For the sake of current and future students, and teachers, it is time we make informed decisions on this policy.

By Holly Pearson

Roar Staff Writer

About the Writer
Holly Pearson, Copy Editor and Staff Writer

Holly is a senior this year. Next year she will be attending UC Santa Barbara as a political science major.  Holly enjoys working with other people to...

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School choice debate comes to Del Campo