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Charters provide choices parents didn't have

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August 30, 2012|By Jed Wallace
  • A teacher reacts to her first-grade students at charter school Academia Semillas del Pueblo in Los Angeles.
A teacher reacts to her first-grade students at charter school Academia… (Los Angeles Times )

It is simply absurd to suggest, as an Aug. 28 Times article summarizes a study as reporting, that California charter schools are "placing an ever-greater burden on taxpayers, who must fund an already strained public education system." 

The fact is parents (whom economist Richard Buddin, the report's author, seems to forget are the very taxpayers he is so worried about) are choosing the best educational opportunity for their children.  Twenty years ago, that choice was between a traditional public school and a private school. But thanks to the efforts of parents, teachers and community leaders across this state, parents today have another choice: public charter schools.  

Further, to suggest that all students who come from private schools are "of means" is out of touch. Many families make financial sacrifices to ensure their kids are getting the best education possible, which for some has meant private school. Rather than assigning blame for this trend of students returning to public education, we should be celebrating that charter schools are helping to restore confidence in the public school system.

As is widely recognized, charter schools receive less funding per student than traditional public schools. And by and large, charter schools operate in facilities that have not been provided by the state. Were it not for the existence of the charter school movement, the taxpayers of California would have had to contribute far more funding to public schools over the last 20 years -- billions more than any amount cited in the study. 

We believe the California charter school movement has offered a great value proposition to the taxpayers of California: With fewer funds invested in public education than would have been spent had all of our students stayed within the traditional public system, the results in terms of academic achievement and parent satisfaction are far beyond what the traditional system would have been able to generate. The charter school movement has provided a great return on California taxpayers' investment, one that we hope the entire public education system will one day be able to achieve.

As parents and taxpayers, we should demand that our public schools are prepared to serve all of the state's children with high quality educational options regardless of family means. And all families should be able to access public schools, including charters, without being told they are draining the very system they are helping to sustain.

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Jed Wallace is president and chief executive of the California Charter Schools Assn.

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