What’s the Real Reason? Withholding Parent Information to Charters

We have a ton of things we could be discussing and possibly bickering about

  • students not reading on grade-level
  • high school seniors not fully prepared to graduate and live as productive adults
  • teacher burnout
  • inequities in funding
  • special education
  • the 2018 elections
  • impoverished communities
  • our state’s K-12 educational system ranking 36th in the country

Any of these topics are surely more important than whether or not to allow charter schools to have access to parents’ information.

I’m a little disturbed by this war against charter schools and I’ll admit I am a little biased:

  • My daughter attends a charter school.
  • I have hopes of opening a charter school to provide options for families.
  • Charter schools are still public schools and the majority of them falls under the same district that is declaring this war.
  • Our first two charter schools, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (MAHS) and KIPP Memphis both are still in operation.

I heard both sides of the argument and I am just disgruntled at the fact that we are taking precious and vital time to argue about charter schools gaining access to parent information. I know this is really in response to one charter network pushing back on the district in this regard. The real reason is the fear of more parents choosing to opt out of traditional public schools to attend a charter of their choice. Mind you, I said two vital things in that previous sentence. Our neighborhood schools are deemed “traditional public” but make no mistake, “charter schools are public schools as well,” and are authorized by a LEA (local education agency). In this case, Shelby County Schools (SCS) is the LEA who is choosing to withhold information from the charters. The argument lives around safety issues but what is the real reason?

Even though the Tennessee State Department of Education ordered Shelby County Schools to release the information, SCS took the same road as the Metro Nashville school system by refusing to comply with the order issued by the State Department of Ed and will likely end up in court along with the Metro Nashville Schools System.

Some conversations with charter network staff present the case the district wants to take the power of choice from parents. The district’s real fear is losing students which results in low enrollment in schools which ultimately leads to loss of money. Any marketing expert would argue the significance of having a quality product and the higher the quality of a product, the less marketing you potentially will have to do because the product will “sell itself.” Any consumer will argue that when it comes to shopping and spending your hard-earned resources, quality does matter.

However, this ideology gets lost somewhere in the educational realm. When does quality stop being important? And as a parent, isn’t it the parent’s right to choose the best quality educational option for their child? Whether its: traditional public, public charter, private, parochial, and even home. Shouldn’t it still be up to the parent?

In Memphis, we have a problem knowing where to go to find solutions to problems, resources for issues, and quality choices. I see the withholding of parental information as an infringement on the opportunity for the people to know where quality is or at the least be made aware of what the options are. If a school is doing right by its students and families then I don’t believe parents will move their children, despite what other options are available. So again I ask, “What is the real reason?”