For Charters, No Tuition And No Bias

May 05, 1991

What would a public charter school be like?

Nearly everyone's heard of so-called "voucher plans," allowin students to attend any school -- public, private, religious -- that their parents may choose.

A public charter school would be similar. Any group o educators, any civic organization, any university or church might start such a school and try to recruit students.

L But public charter schools would have some special rules.

Religious training would be out.

Discrimination would be illegal. Schools could not screen for rac or ethnic background.

"Creaming" would be forbidden -- charter schools would have t accept children first-come, first-serve, without regard to their academic records. (In case of a surplus of applications, choice must be by lottery.)

And elitism based on wealth would be out, too -- charter school would not be able to charge tuition. (We suggest charter schools receive the "average" statewide per pupil funding for each student enrolled.)

To teach at a charter public school, teachers would have to b already certified in Maryland. Or a teacher would have to hold a college bachelor's degree and successfully complete an intensive, three-month teacher training course.

Teachers now working in the public school system should b allowed leaves of absence, retaining all their health and retirement benefits, for a limited period of years. Why? There are hundreds of able people in the deeply troubled public school system. Charter schools should provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them .

Indeed, the charter schools should be able to functio independently of the city school bureaucracy to assure public confidence and to prevent sabotaging from the North Avenue .

Charter schools should be certified by an independen chartering board operated by the state. That board would assure that all charter schools report regularly on their enrollment and finances. Most important, it would assure that the schools test children on a schedule similar to that for the state's regular public schools.

The test results would be published yearly: a proof, to parent and the public alike, of the accountability of the new schools.

Small schools should be encouraged, though not alway required. Why? So that students and staff can get to know each other intimately. To tighten teacher-student bonds. To develop a sense of community.

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