I rarely disagree with Ed Shultz. Last night I did.
On the issue of public schools vs. Charter schools, I have a very different point of view. And before I get started, let me explain that I am an unemployed public school teacher. I believe our nation has some of the best people in education. I believe teachers go into teaching to make a difference, not to become rich. But I also know that there are some teachers who do more harm than good. Every school has a few. Anyone with any experience in education knows this. Anyway, I chose to leave teaching for awhile to raise my kids and as it turns out, educate them.
My son has dyslexia. He also has profound dysgraphia. It was a long, twisty road to figure out that is why he wasn't getting anywhere in elementary school and why he began to physically and emotionally hate school. In Pennsylvania, our public schools do not recognize dyslexia as a learning disability. And in PA, most schools ignore years of NIH research on how to best teach children with dyslexia.
So in the middle of fourth grade, I have a kid who is receiving private counseling, who is sick almost every day (by sick...I mean vomiting to the point where I can't send him to school, and when I do send him, he vomits there and they send him home.) I have a kid who was once curious, thoughtful and full of creative ideas about the world around him, who now thinks he's stupid, lazy and a failure. I have a kid who, while in a learning support class, leaves every day during writing to vomit and to suffer anxiety attacks to avoid the torture of writing and a teacher who sees this as him "taking advantage of bathroom priviledges", so now he isn't allowed to go to the bathroom anymore.
So I decided to enroll my son in a virtual public charter school. I don't think this is the type of money making business Ed referred to in his piece last evening, but it is a charter school. At any rate, this school recognized that my kid needed help with reading, and they happened to have a person on staff who pushed for a reading program based on orton gillingham, which is designed for people with dyslexia. We started using the program at the beginning of my son's 5th grade year. At that point he was reading on a second grade level. After a few years of this program, my son was reading. In fact, by eighth grade he had bridged the gap and was passing comprehension portions of reading acheivment tests on the twelfth grade level.
Please understand that in our traditional public school, my son received title 1, and he received learning support every day which was supposed to teach him how to read, but he wasn't reading. He wasn't learning. He was slipping through the cracks.
A public cyber charter school literally saved my son. Without the ability to read, he would have been at risk for dropping out. He may never have known the success he now experiences in high school. He was on the honor roll every marking period last year, and so far he's got the grades to do it again this year. It is his goal. He now has dreams, and ideas, and a sense of self worth. He's not slipping away into the abyss of the cracks; he's soaring to the top.
So, I'm sorry Ed, but not all teachers are saintly like your mom. And not all public schools are pillars of excellence. And there is a place for charter schools in our system. Perhaps we need to finally, FINALLY have a REAL conversation about our broken schools, and decide to finally, FINALLY fix them. And maybe we need someone in government to realize we have to finally FUND special education, NCLB, and public schools more than we do now. Until then, I hope charter schools like the one we used are available to help kids when the traditional schools fail.