Letter: An open letter to Joyce Rankin

Dear Editor:
An open letter to Joyce Rankin: While I am sure that parents in our community appreciate your comments on school choice, your recent article in the Rio Blanco Herald Times raises several concerns about the distribution of public funds and questions regarding points of fact.
There is no compelling evidence that charter schools, in general, offer any advantage in educational outcome over the public schools. Students are just as well served, often better served, in the public schools. The record shows that, too often, charter schools cherry-pick the best students and siphon resources from the public schools that are serving students most in need of those resources. These observations apply to the schools you mentioned in your article, and the broader research on charter schools has been well documented in the research literature.
Your article also cites examples of school choice requiring travel on winter roads and over mountain passes. That certainly is a testimony to the parents of those kids. From another perspective, though, wouldn’t it be better to make sure their local schools have the resources, facilities and staff to provide a good education?
Colorado ranks toward the bottom in the nation in funding its schools. There is no doubt that resources matter in education. The record of charter schools and vouchers indicates they too often redirect taxpayer money to people who already have educational advantages. They widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots and deprive children of equal opportunity. We hope our State Board of Education will direct its efforts to strengthen the public school system, not sacrifice that foundation of democracy to the ideology of “choice.”
I have provided documentation for these comments in the particular references below. For a broad overview of charter schools, see nepc.colorado.edu/topics/charter-schools. For a bibliography on school voucher programs, see nepc.colorado.edu/topic/vouchers. State data comparing schools is available at www.cde.state.co.us/schoolview. I include reference to the Supreme Court decision, Brown v Board of Education. It affirms that all children have the right to equal educational opportunities. Given their records to date, charters and vouchers deny that right to a substantial segment of students in the United States.
References: Mathis, William J. and Tina M. Trujillo, eds. 2016. Learning from the federal market-based reforms. National Education Policy Center; Mathis, William J. 2016. Regulating charter schools. nepc.colorado.edu/publication/research-based-options; Ravitch, Diane. 2013. Reign of Error. Basic Books; Supreme Court of the United States. 1954. Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php flash=false&doc=87&page=transcript; U.S. Census Bureau. 2014. Public Education Finances. census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/econ/g14-aspef.pdf
Dr. Bob Dorsett