Charter schools are a different breed. Unlike other schools they operate according to a charter with the city or state, usually for a period of five years, and if they are not producing results at the end they are closed.
While the funding comes from the government, charter schools are independent of the teacher’s unions. They also boast other qualities that education proponents generally seek – a longer school year, longer class days, and the ability to fire teachers whose performance is not deemed up to par.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately there are not enough charter schools to go around, particularly in areas that need them most. Harlem is one of those areas. In Harlem there are 23 non-charter schools. Of those 19 have less than half of their students reading at the proper grade level, and the only means of escape into the charter system is completely random – a lottery. A lottery in which 3,000 children compete for less than 500 seats.
This one in six chance of getting a decent education inspired Madeleine Sackler to show the world what was happening. Take a look at the trailer for her recent documentary, The Lottery:
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle sums it up well:
By the time the lottery takes place, viewers understand all that’s riding on it. You look at all these beautiful kids, with all the potential in the world, and every expectation for a great life, and you know that at most one-sixth of them will come out of the room with a fighting chance. That shouldn’t be.
Let’s follow up with some of the media coverage, including this interview with the director on NBC New York:
View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.
While the situation re: charter vs. public schools will vary from one community to another, the results and findings Sackler presents does make a strong argument for exploring them in other areas.
Education is one of the most fundamental assets a child can have, and it’s lack is a liability of tragic proportions.