OPINION: All parents deserve school choice
From The Holland Sentinel:
In its Oct. 22 editorial, “Don’t rush to raise cap on charter schools,” The Sentinel rightly points out that Holland is home to three of the highest-performing charter schools in the state.
Black River Public School, Eagle Crest Charter Academy and Vanderbilt Charter Academy are among the very best of Michigan’s 255 charter schools. As the editorial notes, Black River was recently named the best high school in the state by the Washington Post, using a statistical matrix that looks at how well schools prepare their students for college.
The good news is that parents in the Holland area are tremendously fortunate to have these charter schools as an educational choice for their children. The bad news is that there aren’t enough of these schools to go around. More than 70 percent of charter schools in the state have waiting lists, including Black River, where the list is more than 220 students long.
Think about that: More than 220 parents in Holland have to hope they win a lottery to get their child in the public school of their choice. Is that any way to run an educational system?
The Michigan Legislature is currently considering a package of bills that would remove the arbitrary limits that have stifled innovation and choice in the state. While we agree with much of what The Sentinel says in its editorial, we take issue with its core position that now is not the time to lift the cap on charter schools.
Now is certainly the time to lift the cap on charter schools in the state. In fact, it’s past time. We feel that Michigan needs great public schools of every stripe — traditional and charter — and removing the cap on charter schools will help all of our schools improve.
How? By providing competition. Lanny Davis, a former official in President Clinton’s administration, explained this concept perfectly in a recent op-ed piece: “First and foremost, it busts monopoly power, where one organization, such as the school district, has a captive group of customers, i.e., public school students, who have no choice but to be subject to the monopoly. And it provides the benefit of competition — students have choices, and if the charter school doesn’t work, they (i.e., their parents) can vote with their feet. And perhaps more importantly, the public school system is no longer a monopoly — they must do better or they will lose more students to charter schools.”