Public charter schools fill a need in school choice. I have been a public charter school supporter and advocate since becoming a member of the Ohio General Assembly in 2011. I currently chair the Education and Career Readiness Committee for the Ohio House of Representatives. In my time as a Representative, and as Chairman, I have met with thousands of parents and students from all over the state of Ohio who attend traditional public schools, traditional charter schools, independent schools, home schoolers, eSchools, career centers, and parochial schools. They are the reason I am an advocate for school choice.
My support for public charter schools comes primarily because most families, who want school choice options, cannot attend many of the options available to them. Homeschooling takes time that many parents do not have, career centers may not meet the desires or career plans of the students, independent schools could be out of range of a family’s budget, and some people might not be near a parochial school that they wish to attend. This leaves public charter schools as their only viable option.
Students and parents have told me many reasons why they selected to attend a public charter school. School facilities and athletics are not on the top of their lists, as most charter schools do not have the fanciest facilities or the most robust athletic departments. Instead, things like academics, high-quality and eager teachers, student safety, and the desire to learn in a great environment jump out as reasons to attend a public charter school. Students especially crave the need to live up to their potential. Public charter schools fill that need.
Students and their parents want to succeed, and they make informed decisions. They do not, as many who are against public charter schools claim, fall into gimmicky advertising. No, the parents of students who attend public charter schools do their research before they chose a school. Transparency helps parents understand the options, do their research, and make informed decisions. If you do not believe me, then just ask any parent of a student who attends a public charter school. They will tell you the same thing. I know because they tell me this every time I meet them.
You might have noticed that I did not type charter school, but instead typed public charter school. Charter schools are, to many people’s surprise, public schools. In fact, they are funded usually 100 percent with public funds (which are sometimes supplemented with private donations). Here in Ohio, they are not-for-profit. Charter schools are overseen by a school board, usually made up of advocates for the school’s success, sometimes including parents. Students who attend charter schools are welcomed regardless of their individual characteristics, such as race, religion, sex, or academics. In fact, many students who attend charter schools go there because they are struggling in their traditional school and they have found a way to succeed in the charter school. These students might be behind academically by one to three years when they come into a charter school, but the due diligence and dedication of the teachers and administrators help these students improve their performance and overcome their obstacles. The students themselves know this and want to come back to school. For these reasons, I support school choice and public charter schools and will continue to do so in the future.
Andrew O. Brenner is a State Representative for the 67th Ohio House District and Chairman of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee.