Op/Ed: Charters. Choice. Change. Celebrating Charter School Week in May

By Caroline Roemer Shirley, Director, LAPCS

Louisiana now offers over 117 charter schools in 19 out of 64 parishes, hosting nearly 60,000 children or about 10 percent of total public school enrollment. One of these 19 parishes, Orleans, has the greatest percentage of public school children enrolled in charter schools in the nation. So as the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools invites the state to join it May 4 to 10 in celebrating National Charter School Week, I encourage public school parents and school advocates to know three things that make the movement unique in the state.

Those three unique characteristics are choice, autonomy and accountability.Choice means every parent should be able to choose the best school for their child, just as every principal and teacher should be able to choose to work there. Autonomy means that school’s leadership team, led by its principal, should be responsible for student learning in that building, not a central office. And accountability means schools that continually fail to meet high academic standards should be closed, no excuses.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Louisiana has the third strongest charter school laws in the nation. It is because we have taken legal steps to promote academic independence in charters, equitable distribution of funding and facilities between traditional and charter schools, and no caps on charter school growth that this movement is growing and meeting our three criteria.

But much remains to be done.