Editorial: Give charter schools a chance

Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2011 in Opinion

Editorial: Give charter schools a chance

Charter schools aren't going to be the complete answer to Maine's educational troubles, nor are they going to break down the pillars of society.  Everyone needs to take a deep breath and look at the situation critically.

Other states have charter schools, often established as magnet schools.  New York has its High School for the Performing Arts; San Francisco has magnet grade schools that teach Japanese as well as English.  There are rules for getting into these schools - you need to audition or your parents have to camp out overnight to get you on the list. Other cities have farming magnet schools, Montessori magnet schools, schools that require uniforms or separate the sexes.

And somehow, the regular public schools in the same communities do just fine - well, as fine as they can do during a period of great austerity from which our kids aren't even exempt.  If anything, the regular public schools benefit from having an extra school in their district - smaller class sizes, better student-teacher ratios, etc.

Let's say that Lewiston decides to make one of its schools a magnet school for world languages.  Or that Brunswick turns one of its schools into a Montessori magnet school.  Or that Bath's Morse High School decides to become a performing arts magnet school for the midcoast. Brunswick and Lewiston and RSU1 residents interested in such a thing would be able to sign their kids up for the special programs; perhaps they would accept tuition-paying students from other districts.  Kids not interested in the special programs could go to another school in the district or to a high school out of the district.

Financially, it would be a minor headache, but academically, it could be a winner for the students and the teachers alike.

We think that, especially in a far flung state like Maine, charter schools could offer options for students in rural areas that currently aren't immediately available either at the local school or even within the community. 

Let's give it a chance -- we all might be pleasantly surprised.

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