On this Tuesday’s Anaheim City Council meeting agenda is a resolution from Councilwoman Kris Murray calling on Anaheim’s public school districts to expand opportunities for educational choice, including charter schools:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Anaheim:
- The City of Anaheim will continue to provide significant financial resources based on existing budgetary practices to continue the City’s historic support of its public schools and will continue to partner with its school districts on joint-use facilities and programs to enhance educational opportunities for families, parents and children in the City; and
- The City of Anaheim urges the seven school districts that serve Anaheim students to adopt policies and programs to provide greater levels of high quality educational choice, including charter schools, and to adopt strategic plans and reforms to close the achievement gap for chronically low performing schools in Anaheim before seeking additional city funding; and
- The City of Anaheim urges all seven school districts to actively inform parents of their legal rights under the California Parent Empowerment law and its Parent Trigger provisions, and to support and not in any way legally hinder or cease existing legal efforts to challenge parents exercising their legal rights as authorized by state law.
I can think of no credible reason why the Anaheim City Council should not approve this resolution. Yes, the usual claims will be made that there is no evidence charter schools are any better than conventional public schools. While that may be the case in higher-performing school districts, the evidence points in the opposite direction when it comes to low-performing schools serving poorer, more urban areas. Certainly, parents in such have repeatedly voted with their feet to enroll their children in charter schools; you don’t see parents beating down doors to get their kids into convention inner-city public schools.
Yet, the public education establishment continues to tenaciously fight the creation of charter schools. In Anaheim, the Anaheim City School District has been battling a group of poor, Latino parents seeking to convert Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school under the Parent Trigger Law. The district’s fight has been waged by Superintendent Linda Wagner with the quiet but full support of the Board of Education, which recently chose to approve hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate against these parents rather than get out of their way. The Anaheim City School District claims it is neutral on the Palm Lane charter conversation while opposing it with every means at its disposal.
The end of public schools ought to be providing a quality education to students, forming them as educated, self-reliant citizens who can assume their place in our civil society – whether that is achieved by conventional public schools, charters schools, school vouchers or a mix of these models. However, the end of public education has, generally speaking, become preserving the status quo while demanding more many for it. Charter schools offer a real alternative for families in underperforming, urban schools. Parents increasingly want them for their children. School districts ought to accommodate the parents – for whose sake public schools ultimately exist — rather than fight them.