The True North Preparatory Charter School program hopes to increase its capacity to serve nearly 20 percent of city students, according to a report in the Democrat and Chronicle.
This could have very serious consequences, both good and bad. The good news is the school has proven results and could benefit the students who attend. However, the school has no special needs students. It has a “boot camp” style of operating. It’s not a good fit for everyone. Perhaps the biggest factor is in its success is tremendous buy-in from students and parents. All of these things make the True North model difficult to scale across the entire district.
The expansion raises questions about the students would be left in the City School District, which has an enormous population of special education and English language learners. Charters insist they don’t cream the best students, counsel special needs students not to attend and kick problem kids out, but there’s lots of evidence to the contrary.
Of course, charter schools put the pinch on unions. True North officials say being able to fire teachers is the secret to success. But the school’s rigid structure and student population seem to be much bigger factors. Busting teachers unions will lead to a lower standard of living and no job security for huge numbers of education professionals. (Instead of comparing True North with poor-performing School #30, I would have liked to see the D&C choose a high-performing city school, such as School #58 or School #23.)
The charter expansion could further wipe out parochial schools.
There are also space implications. There’s no question the RCSD has to consolidate and the charter school expansion will hasten the need to close buildings. Meantime, the charter schools will need to acquire property. So far, the district and charter schools have not been working on shared space. Charter schools find themselves in former Catholic schools that lack adequate facilities or spending lots of money to retrofit spaces.
Finally, there are financial consequences. Charter schools siphoned off $33 million from the district this year. The district also must pay transportation costs for charters. Until there’s a critical mass of charter school students (there are about 2,600 across all grade levels), it becomes difficult to achieve economy of scale.
This expansion is so massive, the district and the charter schools must start working together now.
Links of the Day
– Can Ralph Wilson Stadium stand the test of time? Many observers think, no way.
– The NHL lockout has serious repercussions on downtown Buffalo businesses and workers.
– Rochester’s orchestra is mired in debt and infighting. Syracuse’s orchestra folded. Buffalo’s orchestra is doing great!