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Politics in Charter Schools

Charter schools can be described as the public version schools in the United States. These are the elementary and secondary schools that are funded by tax payers and at the same time they are exempted from observing particular regulatory measures and decrees that are applicable to the public schools. In return, these schools are to give accountability through the production of predetermined results which are put in the charter of the school. Opening and entrance into a charter school is voluntary.

Charter schools usually provide an alternative to public schools but remains part and parcel of the public education system for they are not expected to charge tuition. In situations where there is an oversubscription in the enrolment, admission to charter schools is usually done through a lottery. Charter schools are sometimes founded by parents, activists or teachers who are of the view that conventional public schools are too restrictive. Others are founded by non-profit organizations, institutions or some government bodies.

The numbers of those who are educated through the chartered schools vary from state to state as different percentages are recorded in the various states in regard to those attending the independent public schools. This paper shall examine the politics that have been involved in the creation of chartered schools with keen focus to the New Jersey. History of Chartered Schools in the United States: For the past century the public sector has been relied upon on the provision of a variety of social services and it has been seen as more reliable in the provision of essential services irrespective of the economic levels of individuals.

However the public sector agencies in most cases lacks efficiency and effectiveness in executing their duties. This has led to some public institutions in developing some partnership with other organizations to improve on efficiency. The charter schools are such an example in which case they “enhance the capacity of the public institutions with outside resources” (Education Commission of the States, para 1). The concept of chartered schools is an old one in the US and is associated with Ray Budde who was a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor in 1970s.

The idea was later embraced by Albert Shanker who was the president of the American Federation of Teachers in the late 1980s. Shanker called for the reformation of public schools through the establishment of Charter schools or want he called ‘schools of choice’ during this time already we had some schools which lived to the principles of chartered schools though they were not referred to as by the name ‘chartered school’ (Education-Portal. com, para 3). In its ideal model, the chartered schools were supposed to reflect legality and autonomy in financial matters but remaining to be public schools.

Such schools would charge tuition fee, was not supposed to be religiously affiliated, or selective during admission. These schools were to carry out their duties more like private entities being exempted from the numerous state laws and district conventions. They were however to observe accountability based on the results as opposed to the procedures or inputs. Minnesota is regarded as the first ever state to have charter school legislations having done so in 1991. It was followed by California in 1992 and by the year 2009, forty one states have passed the charter school legislations (Education-Portal.

com, para 3). Structure and characteristics: Generally there are two aspects which are crucial in guiding the chartered schools. The first principle is that these schools are guaranteed autonomy through waivers in regard to the numerous procedures that the conventional public schools have to undergo. The autonomous nature is highly regarded as it creates a culture meant to maximize the student’s motivation through emphasis on “high expectations, academic rigor, discipline, and relationships with caring adults” (Education-Portal. com, para 2).

The charter schools also affirm students especially those from the minority groups whose performance at school is usually affected by social phenomena such as prejudicial threats. Curbing the stereotypes requires the autonomy to deal with the related issues of the problem. It has been observed that the schooling environment would be improved if the teachers and school heads were allowed substantial control on work and school related obligations (Education-Portal. com, para 3). Secondly, the chartered schools have to observe another aspect in the name of accountability in regard to the performance of the students.

Many chartered schools are getting closed due to lack of accountability in academic, financial and genera mismanagement. The rules and structures of any charter school is dependant on the state in which the school is to be found. The school is usually permitted to commence functioning upon receiving the charter (Education Commission of the States, para 3). This is a statute that refers to the performance contract which elaborates on the mission of the school, the programs, goals, students description, ways of assessing, and means of evaluation.

The length of the period that is granted to charters is varied but it is usually between three and five years. The charter schools are supposed to be accountable to the respective guarantor who may include the school board, state education agency, or any institution that is sponsoring it. The schools are supposed to produce pleasing results and adhere to the contract as stipulated within the charter. Though these schools are supposed to be held highly accountable for their performances, in real sense they are not held highly accountable as compared to the conventional public schools (Education Commission of the States, para 4).

Chartering authorities: Those responsible for the issuance of charters are different from one state to another and the same applies to the entities that are entitled for applications and subsequent operations of the charters. Some states have given the power to authorize to the State Board Education whereas others allows only for the local school district to authorize and issue the charters. At the same time other states have created sovereign bodies which authorize the charter schools. Some states however have established laws that call for a combination of several authorizers as the case of Minnesota and Michigan.

The applicants for charter schools include local school districts, institutions and NGOs and profit oriented organizations depending on the state. The profit oriented organizations engaged in chartered schools brings in a controversy since the funding that is receives is likely to be diverted towards maintaining profits whereas such funds would have been used entirely on education in the traditional public schools. The National Education Association establishes that profit oriented charter schools on rare occasions would perform better that the conventional public schools even when such schools receive more funding.

The charter schools are generally funded by the tax payers’ money. The funding however is dictated by the respective state. In various states, charter schools are funded through the transfer of per-pupil state aid offered in the school district in which the pupil lives. Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act pat B, sections 502- 511 authorizes grants that funds the charter schools. Studies have established that charter schools generally receive less public funding as per-pupil when compared to the conventional schools. Despite this, charter schools still attract funding from other sources including grants and donations.

Politics in Charter Schools: Charter schools have elicited a raging debate with some in support whereas others are opposed to it. The debate is characterized by backers who argue that the concept of charter schools has seen some improvement in the performance of some students who were initially performing poorly in public schools. They argue that such students have been academically lagging behind before they were moved to charter school where they have shown some improvement in an effort to catch up (The Seattle Times Company, para 2).

These students having underperformed in the public schools are not supposed to be compared to the similar students in the public schools. This is an unfair comparison. It is argued that charter schools should be regarded as a panacea for all the students who are underachievers. Some of these schools are bound to enjoy success in a wild manner whereas others may fail objectively. The issue of charter schools has been politicized and no objectivity is being observed. Students in these schools are in most cases from a difficult family background and thus require any available support in their endeavors.

Such students are needy and require to be given preferential treatment in the provision of customized education that would suit their requirements (The Seattle Times Company, para 4). Opponents have advanced an argument that the charter schools have no or little record in regard to success in their performance across the country. They also argue that the lesser strict rules applied to the charter schools especially in regard to the tenure could hinder the capability of recruiting competent members.

The debate on charter schools has been politicized as claimed by “The people who favor charter schools tend to be Republicans. Poor people tend to vote democratic and trust democratic candidates” (Yeager, para 8). Charter schools in New Jersey: In New Jersey, there is an ongoing debate in regard to the funding of public education of which charter schools is part. This however is characteristically a battle of adults since the children are unable to influence any decision in regard to their education and that there is no organization that can intervene on their behalf.

Public education is usually organized by adults who are interested in the protection of how their tax is being utilized (Gordon, para 2). Their involvement in New Jersey has generally affected the deteriorating funds being availed for charter schools. Charter schools in New Jersey have recorded low funding from the state. The stakeholders in education include the teachers, administrators, and school boards among others who exert control on the funding of public education. The public charter schools will therefore continue to fight for the legal claim of the students who enroll in these schools.

Since the commencement of charter schools in 1996, when New Jersey enacted legislations that allowed their introduction, these schools have engaged in unending battles in regard to funding (Gordon, para 3). The original New Jersey charter school legislations gave mandate in regard to per-pupil funding for every pupil equaling 90% of the amount that the other child in the conventional public schools is entitled to within the same district. Currently, the reality has it that these students get 78% in comparisons to their counterparts in the traditional public schools.

The new formula has in some cases resulted in 65% funding for charter school students (Gordon, para 4). This is due to the fact that such students do not get ‘adjustment aid’ which is usually given by the state to districts when observing the School Funding Reform Act. The situation gets worse especially in districts that receive high adjustment aid. The disparity in such situations is even worse and there is need to fix the problem (Gordon, para 4). In New Jersey, charter schools do not get facilities and funding from the state like the conventional public schools.

No bond issues are advanced for constructing and improving the charter schools. The investments in billions that is allocated for public education funding in the past decade has been exclusively directed towards the construction of the traditional public schools and non has gone to the charter schools (Gordon, para 7). This inequity has been aggravated by the budget proposal for 2009 which had the objective of assuring equal school funding to all districts. This objective however overlooks the twelve charter schools in the state.

These schools are to receive funding that equals what they had received in the year 2008 which is a million dollar less from the previous funding in the last year’s budget (Gordon, para 8). In the budget proposal, charter schools are going to receive over 30 million dollars though this can not be commensurate to the enrollment that is extremely high. Though there is a general increase in the funding for charter schools, the students in the charter schools faces considerable cuts in terms of per-child cuts.

It has been a historical problem to fund the charter school education in New Jersey to 90% since the enrollment has outpaced the funding (Gordon, para 8). The reason for the increased enrollment in charter schools is due to the fact that in most instances the charter schools are performing better than the traditional schools. This is because the charter schools provides safe environments for learners, especially with regard to urban school districts and very innovative (Gordon, para 9). Conclusion:

What the authorities in New Jersey forget to consider is the fact that charter schools are legal public schools that should benefit from the public funding. These students in charter schools are similar to those in traditional public schools and that their parents a conscious decision to enroll them in charter schools. It seems that they are being penalized for making a choice if enrolling their children in charter schools as opposed to the conventional public schools and the children are the innocent victims. These children deserve every right to fair funding of their educational program.

It is therefore essential for the policy makers responsible for influencing public education to provide good leadership and back charter schools. There is need to go back top the original legislation that gave a fair funding to the charter schools in New Jersey of up to 90% in comparison to the students in the traditional public schools. Charter schools remain to hold the future of education in the United States. This has been hailed as prudent for the future of education by the Obama administration. Work Cited: Education Commission of the States.

Charter School Laws and Partnerships: Expanding Opportunities and Resources. 2004. Retrieved on 5th May 2010 from; http://docs. google. com/viewer? a=v&q=cache:vrs_ZJQaIgMJ:www. usc. edu/dept/education/cegov/focus/public-private/publications/policy/Charter%2520school%2520laws%2520and%2520partnerships. %2520Expanding%2520opportunitie. pdf+formation+of+charter+schols+in+New+Jersey&hl=en&gl=ke&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjy2i7ShSrGJq7u4w0NYsAG1ir0lSkdxavCT1lqzje2VoCSK-rTpcldmKkwXxpJ6-5tKtlCTMuXo7GXsp-5K1vA8ikTIuSvAMoTbqlDpZFYaOpMMTKV6o-x2gJjRNUzR0Rm73zA&sig=AHIEtbSpGoQST7QzEH5ze0awGNxteqSS4A

Education-Portal. com. Making Charter Schools Work. 2009. Retrieved on 5th May 2010 from; http://education-portal. com/articles/Making_Charter_Schools_Work. html. Gordon, Jessani. New Jersey continues shortchanging charter school children. 2009. Retrieved on 5th May 2010 from; http://blog. nj. com/njv_guest_blog/2009/05/new_jersey_continues_shortchan. html. The Seattle Times Company. The debunking politics of charter schools. 2004. Retrieved on 5th May 2010 from; http://seattletimes. nwsource. com/html/editorialsopinion/2002010155_charted20. html

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