Debate on Education Heats Up: Charter or Public Schools?

The charter school debate is heating up again.

It seems when you get both sides in a room, the number one topic is money. Both the charter and public schools need it to provide for the students, and each wants a bigger slice of the pie.

Thursday night, the two sides got a seat at a table that looked at the money, and the test scores.

The discussion was going along very civilly, each side praising the other, but like parents defending their kids, leaders do the same for their school.

“I think there is room for both and I think both serve a purpose, and charter schools are showing in New York that they're succeeding academically with students,” says James Merriman, Executive Director of Charter Schools Institute.

“You've got to peel away the onion, and yes, the test scores look pretty good, but so do a number of ours,” says former president of the Albany Board of Education, Patricia Fahey.

Both charter schools and public schools had a seat at the table as the League of Women Voters try to formulate a position paper. It comes at a time when radio spots from Brighter Choice call out Albany's district.

One radio spot reads, “with all the bashing of charter schools that goes on, I bet people are surprised two public charter schools scored higher than all the Albany District Schools.”

Another spot on the radio say, “the Albany District should take a look at Brighter Choice, they might learn a thing or two.”

Each side tried to make their point that full funding is essential, that the playing field needs to be level.

“We have about 18-percent of our students with disabilities in the public schools and a little less than six-percent of the students with disabilities in the charter schools,” Albany District Superintendent Dr. Eva Joseph says.

“We will provide additional operating support in the amount of several hundred-thousand dollars per year, so it's not millions of dollars,” says Christian Bender, with Brighter Choice Foundation. “The other thing that we do, secondly, is we will essentially provide a turn key building to a charter school.”

The state has authorized nine charter schools in Albany; seven are currently in operation.

By Fall 2007, Brighter Choice will have a relationship with all but one, the New Covenant Charter School.

There are 100 charter schools across the state, but that number could increase by the end of the year.

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