Charter Martyrs: Where Do Your Kids Go to School?

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The Roots & Branches Public Charter School sounds like a daunting and noble task. It aims to have “an inquiry-driven, arts-integrated curriculum – where teachers are co-learners with students” and to “create lifelong learners and community-minded citizens who embrace diversity.” In April, the school announced plans to open in Hampden for the 2011-12 school year.

But earlier this month, that plan got scrapped — in part because the Roots & Branches team was fuzzy on logistics, and in part because of Hampdenites who mobilized to voice opposition to the school. (The school’s new location is the Harriet Tubman School Building in Harlem.)

One Hampdenite lays out the anti-charter agreement nicely in a blog post entitled “Why I Don’t Want a Charter School in My Backyard. (Not just yet. Not so fast.)” As the equivocating sub-head indicates, those who opposed Roots & Branches don’t necessarily hate charter schools in principle; they just think that this one would be too close to a school that’s already doing pretty okay. Blogger Edit Barry blames the “insidious notion that traditional city public schools aren’t places where parents who can afford not to would send their kid.”

Part of the problem is that charter schools draw from the city as a whole. That means that a good charter school doesn’t draw parents to a neighborhood the way a strong public school might. But even parents with the loftiest ideals may balk at the idea of sending their own kids to the public school down the street. Is that racism or classism — or just the unwillingness to deal with entrenched bureaucracy and unmotivated teachers? Or maybe a little of both?

What’s your stand on charter schools — and what school do you send your kids to?



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