Your Aug. 20 editorial, “Our View: Virtual charter schools didn’t live up to the hype,” is misinformed and misguided. When introducing public charter school options, Maine took advantage of the experience and mistakes made in other states and crafted a cautious approach in the 2011 enabling legislation.

Advocates of public education options did not promise to “fix what was wrong with public education.” We promised to provide more options, more opportunities for teachers and families to have different educational approaches, to help children who were not thriving in their assigned district schools. Maine public charter schools are doing that for thousands of children (over 2,400 students a year, with over 600 on waiting lists).

Public charter schools do not take resources from local school districts. Public operating funds allocated for each child through the essential programs and services formula follow to the public school attended. Charter schools do not receive any of the supplemental local funds that most towns tax themselves for, nor funds for teachers’ pensions or construction. A district may actually save money when children attend charter schools.

Regarding virtual schools: The Maine Charter School Commission limited them to grades 7-12, capped enrollment and required the school’s board to be separate from education service providers. Distance learning is here to stay, and Maine is a national leader in working carefully to meet the varied needs of young students.

Maine’s public school options are not “niche” programs thought up by “some think tank.” Created by experienced educators and community members, they provide innovative curricula and personal learning plans and enhance student engagement. If dissatisfied, students can transfer to another public school. Children are not the property of a district.

Some successful innovations have been adopted and adapted by districts, improving Maine’s public education system for all Maine children.

Judith Denton Jones

board chair, Maine Association for Charter Schools

Hope

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