March 15, 2012

Another View: Portland's Mayor Brennan right to question charter schools

Public money and public schools should be used to benefit all students, not just the few.

By Rebecca Stern

In her Maine Voices piece on March 13, Katherine Merseth scolded Portland Mayor Michael Brennan for not supporting the creation of Baxter Academy, a proposed charter school that would be located in Portland.


Rebecca Stern of Portland is a former Deering High School teacher and a doctoral candidate in education at Boston College.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are run privately. Public schools, on the other hand, are funded through our tax dollars but are run by publicly elected school boards. Public schools are a cornerstone of American democracy.

Dr. Merseth is correct in stating that our mayor should be aggressively working to expand high-quality opportunities for all students.

However, Mayor Brennan should (and does) show that support through our public school system, not through a system that has no input from our democratically elected leaders and our voters.

To promote a charter system as a means to improve education for all students is a folly. Portland's public school district has a proven track record of improving educational opportunities in Portland (such as Casco Bay High School, a success notably absent from Dr. Merseth's editorial), and should be encouraged to continue to do so.

Instead of scolding our publicly elected mayor for not supporting a private, anti-democratic "fix" to our public schools, perhaps Dr. Merseth should support school reform that honors local knowledge and control.

Charter schools do not do better, on average, than public schools, but they do manage to take away public control and put it in the hands of private citizens and corporations, ones that have a very different bottom line than our public schools.

I applaud our mayor for standing up to attempts to privatize public education and keeping our public schools just that: public.

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