March 11, 2022

Chris Altobello: We all want what’s best for our children, but charter schools are no panacea

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In a guest editorial for the Ocala StarBanner, Chris Altobello argues against charter schools as a solution for education’s woes.

Responding to recent guest columnist and local charter school advocate Stan Hansen, I too have lived in Marion County for the past 25 years. Over the years we have engaged in education discussion many times, and I have always valued the exchange of ideas, even though we may disagree on some issues. I truly believe Mr. Hanson wants what is best for our children, as I most certainly do!

Where we disagree is the notion that charter schools are the panacea for the education struggles we face in our community. Every few years we hear From Mr. Hansen, as well as others promoting this false narrative. Mr. Hansen’s version of charter schools are operated by businesses (and big ones, I might add). These charter schools may not be as large as the corporation that Mr. Hansen retired from but make no mistake about it – charters have now become very lucrative business opportunities. And while they may want to demonstrate their success(often lackluster when all factors are considered), I am sure one eye is laser focused on profitability. Friends in high places don’t hurt either!

Hansen suggests that organizing the district under a “charter-school operational model” is the answer Marion has been looking for. Under this model the charter school/district would receive flexibility and independence from many state education laws and regulations, in return for a promise of higher performance. Imagine what public schools could do if they had the flexibility and independence that charters seek! Imagine what certain businesses could do to their competition with flexibility from state laws and regulations. As a matter of fact, this was tried in Florida…and it ended with the charter business pulling out of the school district, leaving the children and community behind.

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