Misquote clouds charter’s problems

Some charter school advocates are using a quote attributed to me to try to further their cause.

Trouble is, they’re misquoting me — and they should know it, as they attended the Cherokee County school board meeting where I made the statement.

In the context of a discussion on school choice, I said: “Any parent in our community has a choice. If you feel that the school system is not meeting your needs, then you have options: You can move ... I realize people can’t do that. It is not a practical solution. But you can pay to go to a private school, you can home-school and you can run for the Board of Education, as I did 10 years ago, and try and get involved and make change happen.

“If none of these choices are available, you have one other option: Get involved in your child’s education at your local public school.”

And that’s not just how I remember it — it’s on video.

But it appears some charter advocates would prefer to remember it as, “If you parents don’t like the education your school district is providing for your children, then you should move out of Cherokee County!,” because it better suits their propaganda needs.

The school board’s denial of Cherokee Charter Academy is far from the “proof” charter advocates argue it provides for the need to cede a local funding decision to another unelected — and possibly unconstitutional — group of pro-charter appointees.

A majority of school board members scrutinized petitions for CCA not once, but three times.

Every time, the same significant shortcomings and issues led to denial: accountability, governance and transparency, which CCA’s organizers refused to address.

They refused to allow the school board approval of CCA’s annual budget before turning over millions in taxpayer dollars; and their records are filled with red flags as far as lack of local control over those dollars, with evidence that Charter Schools USA would really be driving operations with a goal of increasing its profits and real estate holdings. (Texas and New York state both have heavily restricted this type of relationship).

The school board must approve CCA’s budget to ensure it addresses state and federal requirements; if CCA fails to meet those requirements, the school district is marked as failing.

Those are biggies, but there certainly are more, such as CCA’s failure to provide a program significantly different from what already is offered in our schools.

CCA’s initial enrollment data and comments by CCA parents reveal the true desire for this school: a tuition-free private school with little to no enrollment of Hispanic, special needs and low-income students.

I support charter schools. There are charters that serve true needs by giving our nation’s poorest children a better environment in which to excel. But CCA is the ugly other side of that bright coin.

Hearing charter advocates whine about the funding levels for cherry-picking charters is disgusting, especially when there are thousands of hard-working public school educators serving our entire communities despite pay cuts (what we really should say instead of furlough days), rising insurance prices and belittling rhetoric from charter supporters.

The real problem in public education isn’t the lack of “competition” from charters.

If we truly want to change public education and reduce the role of government, the state legislature should act on the root cause of the problem: the structure our schools operate under based on state law and state school board policy.

Mike Chapman of Canton is a member of the Cherokee County school board.