Question 2

I've been collecting some opinions on this question. Basically it is whether there should be more Charter schools are not. Yes means more. No means no more.

I went to a semi-private middle school called Nativity Prep, back then it existed through some sort of loophole where it was something in between a public and an independent school. It is now fully independent. It was totally a school that was created by strength of will, pulling up your bootstraps, parental support and rich and powerful people willing to get behind the cause of improving inner city education.

A lot of people who came to speak at the school were pro charter school. This was when the first Charter schools were opening up in Boston.

In Jamaica Plain there are "No on 2" signs everywhere and this question may even be more contentious than the Trump Hillary debate. Like "We're two moms and we're friends but you'r voting what? I'm gonna cut you!" type of controversial.

A friend of mine, worked in the Charter school system both in MA and later in another state. She was heavily involved in Chinatown through Lion Dance and Kung Fu as well. In fact we once did an impromptu Lion Dance together at the opening of a Chinatown Store front Library (which is now gone... but there is a private Chinatown library open to anyone held in the CCBA)  

She spoke of how she attended a networking session with other Chinese American teachers, and how suddenly, when they found out she was working the Charter school system they made her feel really bad about it and she almost became a social pariah, as if supporting Charter schools in any way was like killing kittens in your basement. So this mad me take a long time before coming around to want to Vote No on question 2 (which is what I'm doing, but I swear the decision was solidified just recently and if I had voted early... I may very well have voted yes,

Here is why I would have voted yes before.

My experience trying to do outreach in the Public School system taught me that there are all sorts of hurdles to jump through. I learned why there is a lot of empty space not being used at schools that could be used to start Chinese schools and Martial Arts schools or anything really, and the money could go right to the school if the laws were different. A Charter school might have more freedom to do this, to make the school a center of the community. But a BPS school has so much protocol that the money would go to the central office and then get sucked into the bureaucracy that eats and destroys everything by paying certain teachers who cannot be fired due to union laws and therefore just sit at a desk and do nothing all day. Suffice it to say, I am against this even though I can understand how these things come to be through good intentions. I though, "Why not let these Charter schools do what the public schools cannot."

But the argument against the Charter school is that their existence drains money away from the Public School that my kid goes to and that a majority of kids goes to.

I asked a few Chinatown teachers what they thought, including the Godmother to my children and the answer was that she had heard from many respectable sources that certain Charter schools could simply expel the children if the Parent did not come to the first Parent teacher meeting. Or things like that. And that she would be very upset if I voted anything but "No."  I laughed because I was totally going to vote yes at that point anyway.

My other friend, the Lion Dancer, said that this was not her experience at all so I took all stories like this with a grain of salt.

In the end, the reason why I will vote no is not because I am against more small schools with small classrooms and a brotherhood the way Nativity was for me. In fact I have written on the bog that Chinatown could totally use 6 such small schools that were small and had a crazy outside the box approach to them.

In fact... part of the reason why I started this blog was to create the network I would need to start these schools.

So that's why I thought if they could be Charter schools... great. But here is the thing. If you want to go and do that, to start a semi private school, go ahead. But why should the state pay for it? What if it's a failure? Why should the State suffer a loss? Why can't you just fail on your own?

Putting a cap on Charter schools doesn't stop Nativity type schools and Epiphany and all sorts of other semi private entities from coming into existence. And btw, these schools are designed for low income families. When I went, I did not pay, and yes I was from a single parent household that resided in the projects... just to be clear. When other schools talk about "diversity" and I see what that classroom looks like I laugh.

My small classroom had one and one half white people and one half of an Asian. And I felt right at home. In fact I have never felt more comfortable before or after in an academic setting and never have I been more challenged in a positive way.

So I'm all for the small classrooms and these small schools that push kids harder. At some point I want to start one or maybe more in Chinatown.  I can think of 5 or 6 possibilities for locations for small private schools that could exist in Chinatown.

I just don't think the State should have to pay for them.

I would like to write more about the "Yes on 2" argument to balance this out. But that's my "No on 2 argument." Also, making teachers who work in the Charter school system feel like they are somehow guilty or working for the Dark Side definitely doesn't really help. And we have to be careful not to divide ourselves over things like that. Which is why I want to present the other side of things on the blog as well.


Unknown said…
Let's start a weird kids art theater and kung fu school!

Very thoughtful piece.
Kung Fu Dad said…
Art, theater, and a strong emphasis on Math and Science as well. And Chinese Immersion. That will give jobs to local Chinese residents who don't speak English. Because it will be their job not to speak English and will keep Chinese Culture alive in Chinatown by educating newcomers in the Chinese traditions, languages, and customs.
Unknown said…