Politicians will also see anger at the charter lobby for labeling our city’s public schools failures. It reminds me of a bully, grabbing our kids’ lunch money while taunting “nanny, nanny, boo boo, our schools are better.” Traditional public schools are not failing. They deserve support, not scorn. Many Boston Public Schools excel in growth and achievement on state tests, from Orchard Gardens, to Boston Latin Academy, my daughter’s school, which last year had the highest tenth grade scores in the state.
I have other reasons to be proud of my children’s schools. Boston Arts Academy admits students who have struggled academically, engages their creative passions, and sends 94 percent, my senior included, on to college. Two of my children graduated from an elementary school that offers rigorous advanced work classes for students whose first language is Spanish. My son’s current school, the Washington Irving, provides students with disabilities an environment where they can succeed.
In important ways, district schools succeed where charters fail. Take those special needs students at my son’s school. They make up 27.8 percent of our student body. Quite a few are former charter students, some from a school up the street. Charter lobbyists tout that school, the Edward Brooke, as a slam-dunk success. They won’t tell you that the Brooke’s student population includes just 6.9 percent students with disabilities, and an astoundingly low 1 percent English language-learners.
It’s long past time to look those English language learners in the eye. Ride the MBTA Blue Line to East Boston, and visit the Patrick J. Kennedy School, where 70 percent of students are learning English. Then go up the street to Excel Academy charter. Take a look at Excel’s 6.2 percent ELL population, and tell me that charters serve the same students as district schools.
Charters are known for “no excuses” discipline, giving demerits for mismatched socks. How about demerits for inequity? Where is the outrage over the nearly 40 percent suspension rate at Boston’s City on a Hill charter? When will charters admit that their high school graduation rates hide huge attrition, especially acute for boys of color?
Finally, when will politicians take responsibility for the negative impact charters have on urban districts and families? Our eyes are ringed with worry. We’re hemorrhaging, losing social workers, paraprofessionals, enrichment opportunities, safe transportation, and chances for our children to thrive.
The money charters snatch for schools that serve far, far, fewer of our state’s most vulnerable students isn’t the only thing draining us. But it’s a steady stream now. What will happen if we open the floodgates to even more such schools?"