Charter schools will become the lampreys in our educational funding streams

To the Editor:

When I was a young boy, in the town where I grew up, our summers were spent eating hot dogs and ice cream from the Snack Shack at our town “pool.”  Our “pool” was really a pond we shared with numerous fish, snakes, turtles, ducks, and a herd of Holsteins that drank from the shore next to our beach.

One day, I remember seeing a fish swimming in the shallows with some kind of worm- or snake-looking thing attached to it.  In my young mind, I thought, “How nice, the fish is giving him a ride” and continued swimming.

That fall came and I shared my story of the perch giving the wormy thing a ride, and my third-grade teacher with a smile shared that the wormy thing was actually a lamprey and he wasn’t riding the fish but living off it. This was my first lesson in parasites, which brings me to my latest refresher in parasitic organisms, charter schools.

Charter schools, you say? Why would readers in Guilderland, Berne, or Voorheesville waste any time worrying about charter schools? That’s an Albany or Schenectady issue.

Well, in case you missed it, last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly threw his support behind this experiment and said more funding should be directed to the charter schools.  In a time when many of our school communities continue to face reduced funding and increased cuts year after year, this announcement does not bode well for any of us and should serve as a red flag for what lies ahead.

As citizens, we cannot afford to be taxed any more to fund education, and districts don’t have much more to give.  With this call for additional funds to be directed to this experiment, the money will have to come from or be diverted from somewhere.

One way or another, we all will have to pay.  So, in essence, charter schools will become the lampreys in our educational funding streams, siphoning funds from all of our districts — suburban, urban, and rural alike.

As a parent and a taxpayer, I am not happy by these developments and am going to look to my district leadership to do something to stand up to this political tomfoolery and corporate hijinks, maybe reconsidering Common Core implementation and/or other “mandated” state tests to reduce fiscal costs and take back instructional time wasted trying to produce excellent test takers.

Even harder will be my hopes of school districts evolving into a 21st-Century model and leaving outdated 19th-Century practices and philosophies behind. This inherently means concessions across the board will have to be made. What used to be the standard may no longer be feasible.

If public schools don’t adapt, they may go the way of other creatures that didn’t change like the short-necked giraffe and brown snowy owl.

I’m sure there will be a letter or two as a response to this but, in the spirit of civil discourse; I hope it contains thoughtful insight and limits aspersions and vitriol.

Aaron Harrell

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