Today’s news:

Charter Schools Play Valuable Role

In a letter published in last week’s newspaper, Chet Szarejko raised questions about the growing number of city charter schools. Although we disagree with Szarejko’s conclusions, we recognize he speaks for many New Yorkers who believe charter schools threaten the public education system.

TimesLedger Newspapers recognizes that traditional public elementary and high schools play vital roles in the education of city children. But we also recognize that many new charter schools are doing an outstanding job and provide competition for traditional schools.

Charter schools are funded by the city and must follow the standards set by the city Department of Education. On its website, the DOE offers the following explanation:

“Charter schools are ... open to all students in New York City through a non-discriminatory admissions lottery. Each charter school is governed by a not-for-profit board of trustees .... Charters have freedom to establish their own policies, design their own educational program, and manage their human and financial resources.”

They are to provide families with an increased number of high-quality school choices; improve student achievement; increase learning opportunities for students; encourage use of innovative teaching methods/educational designs; create new professional opportunities for teachers, administrators and school staff; and change from rule-based to performance-based accountability.

The schools are not, as Szarejko wrote, “profit-making enterprises.” Oversight is provided by a nonprofit board of trustees. We do not agree with Szarejko in that the “ultimate goal” is not “to provide a profit for its principal investors and stockholders.”

Parents like these schools because they work and believe their children are getting a quality education. That belief is supported by standardized test results — the same tests taken by children in public and private schools.

Charter schools are closely monitored by the DOE and held to the same standards set for public schools. We do not believe these schools will take the place of traditional public education.

The competition between the two systems is healthy and should continue.

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