By Ron Isaac
The teachers union and the charter school industry fight hard and often, especially about “co-location.” That’s the widespread practice of muscling private charters into crowded public school buildings and awarding these for-profit business entrepreneurs the lion’s share of resources and preferred space at no cost to them.
You the public pays. The teachers union opposes this scheme because it is unfair. The charter operators and their lobbyists favor it because they get a great deal.
Who’s correct? Whose side should you be on? Don’t make up your mind based on party membership or existing inclination to believe. Check it out yourself. Then decide. But how?
Public school buildings belong to you, the public. You have the right to access them. There may be conditions, but they are easily navigable, especially if you’re a parent or say you are. Avail yourself of this privilege and go visit. But for it to be meaningful, it shouldn’t be a prearranged escorted tour with an itinerary picked by a guide who, perhaps with the purest of selfless intentions, may want to draw attention to rampant neglect that cries out for redress or, as the case may be, showcase impressive displays of student work to highlight what they consider their exceptional success.
For better or worse it’s best to be struck by or uncover the evidence yourself. Be led to the truth by the truth, not through intermediaries. The revelations will spill of their own accord.
As you explore the public school building, don’t be tempted to expand your original mission, which is to make an informed, unbiased and accurate comparison of operations and facilities between the public school itself and the charter elitists harbored within its walls. Appraise the classrooms, book-rooms, libraries, laboratories. storage areas and toilets. Contrast the upkeep of the whole physical environment and amenities and note the availability of computers and grade-appropriate materials and supplies. When you’re done with your inspection, share what you learned with others.
Is there a level-playing field and equal treatment of the public schools and their charter school co-inhabitants? Or are the charter school occupiers showered with advantages and largesse and the public school children valued as second-class squatters? The truth should set us free. Of charters.