Two weeks ago, a local rabbi gave a speech against Charter schools because they will change the character and nature of the community. I wonder what social change he envisions and is scared about? Greater knowledge of arts and sciences? Less provincialism? Less sports watching and pop culture? It is not like anything that goes on in the Reform and Conservative congregation has any effect on his vision of the community so why should this change it? This week the Jewish Week got involved and had a long article on parents transferring their kids to public school and I hear it has led to an avalanche response of other parents seeking info about transferring.
A year ago I posted about some of the similarities of the Jewish and Catholic examples,here and here. So I was not going to post my new links, but someone told me that there were new points in this article. First, Baltimore Catholic schools are fighting charter schools and see it as a battle of charter schools against parochial schools. The Baltimore Archdiocese seeing chapter schools as killing Catholic schools. To this, the general Baltimore newspaper claimed that the Archdiocese should not respond in fear and defensive, rather it should emphasize what it does best teach faith. There is a message for Jews to also respond from strength and not fear of the corruption of the neighborhood.
Charter schools called threat to Catholic schools
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has refused to sell or lease vacant school buildings to charter schools because it has found that charter schools are siphoning students away from Catholic schools, according to the Baltimore Sun.
My own diocese, Brooklyn, is very active in leasing properties to charter schools – encouraged by Mayor Bloomberg, a big supporter of charter schools.
The foundation and government officials who are pushing charter schools – the Gates Foundation, the Obama administration, and others – have an obligation to face up to the fact that they are contributing to the demise of Catholic schools.
And now the response:
Archdiocese shouldn’t block charters
But the archdiocese’s reluctance to lease its now-shuttered school buildings to charter schools belies that spirit. It speaks to an intuition huddled in a defensive crouch, not one that believes it has something unique and important to offer. If the system views increasing competition from quality public schools as something to fear, it is in a losing position.
The archdiocese’s desire to avoid helping the competition is understandable but ultimately misguided. If the only thing Catholic schools have to offer is that they’re an alternative to low-quality neighborhood schools, the system is putting itself in a position of rooting against the rapid improvement in Baltimore’s public school system and against the flourishing of educational choice through the charter movement.
If the Catholic schools are going to survive, they need to convince parents that they get something for their tuition that they can’t at a public school, even an excellent one.
What that is should be obvious. The archdiocese conducted focus groups before last year’s school closure and found that the religious component of the education its schools offer and the atmosphere of faith are a chief draw,
That is the one thing no charter school can offer, and there are still many parents in this city,