In Response to: Schoolhouses rock

As a parent of a child in public school, I found this article to be appallingly uncritical of the charter-school movement. In Wisconsin, where I live, independent charter schools strip $57 million from public school aid. These charter schools exacerbate the squeeze on public schools by siphoning money away from them, and for what? Because they outperform comparable public schools? No.

Even if boutique charter schools were the magic bullet, they are neither sustainable nor viable for the vast majority of kids. Rajiv Vinnakota ’93 deems the $35,000 he spends per pupil for his full-service SEED charter as worth it for “kids on the margin.” I couldn’t agree more. But in my daughter’s school district here in Milwaukee, we have about 85,000 K-12 students, and 82 percent (or 69,700) of those children qualify for free or reduced lunch and therefore would qualify as “kids on the margin.” Multiply that number by SEED’s per-pupil expenditure, and you have an annual cost of over $2.4 billion. That’s about twice the budget of the entire Milwaukee public school system. Our newly elected governor has proposed severe budget cuts, however, and new policies that will further break the public school system by expanding independent charter schools and the voucher program.

I celebrate SEED’s successes with individual students no less than anyone else. But if we want to save public education, we need to find a way to do so for all of our country’s children, and stop blaming underfunded public schools for not living up to superhero standards. A high-quality public education is a right for all of our children, not the privilege of a few.

Jasmine Alinder ’91