February 7, 2017
Letter to the editor:
Barb Olsen: Angry but uninformed about Charter Schools !
In a recent letter to the editor (2/5/2017) Ms. Barb Olsen denigrated Betsy Devos and also Charter Schools. Ms. Olsen made numerous inaccurate and misleading statements about Charter Schools and impugned by implication the dedication of teachers in non-public schools compared to public school teachers.
As a former public school teacher as well as a parent I take umbrage at her remarks. Our children have attended public, parochial and charter schools and we have benefited from all those opportunities. I believe, unlike Ms. Olsen, that parents and students should be able to choose the schools that meet their needs including well-run Charter schools.
Ms. Olsen shared her belief that Charter schools are run strictly for profit, select only the best students, weed out students who are poor or have special needs and make up their own rules and regulations. She also implied that only public schools accept all students that apply and show great compassion and care for those students.
In America we are all entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. Black River Public School is a nationally ranked K-12 Charter School in Holland Michigan that has operated for over 21 years and which easily refutes all of her charges about Charter schools.
BRPS accepts and serves all students that apply, including special needs students with a variety of disabilities, via an annual lottery of all applicants since they have a cap on the number of students that can fit in the school. They are a 501-C3 non-profit organization with a board appointed by Grand Valley State University. They must follow by law all the rules and regulations that other public schools follow but actually receive the same or less per-pupil funding that the other public schools receive. Unlike other Public Schools Charter schools can’t levy millages to build buildings or provide other school enhancements. In essence the Charter schools are challenged to do more with less. They usually have a lean and efficient administrative structure and have to do a capital campaign like any other non-profit organization to enhance facilities or improve technology.
Currently at Black River Public School 11-12% of their students receive Special needs services and about 25% receive a subsidized lunch for children from lower income families. In a recent study it was indicated that BRPS was the third most ethnically diverse K-12 school in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.
In addition to being a well- run school that makes student education and support its highest priority they also have a good staff. The Black River Teachers and administrators are a very special group. They work long hours and receive less pay and benefits than some of their public school peers but they do a tremendous job teaching and caring for their students.
Some Black River seniors who had just graduated over 20 years ago wrote what they thought about their teachers in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the school, it read. “Yesterday you were our Teachers, today you are our peers but you always will be our heros.” I am proud that my children attended a school where their teachers were their hero’s.
Charter schools are another option for parents to consider when seeking the best education for their children. Betsy DeVos simply wants other families to have that choice available to their children and for that I applaud her.