Tyler Losey: Ignorance About the Charter School Movement, School Choice and Education Policy
“What are you doing this summer in DC?” I reply, of course, that I am working at a long-standing pioneer organization in the education reform movement. More often than not the answer is met with a blank stare of confusion. “Well it’s an advocacy group that has been around for twenty years that provides information, supports grassroots activism in the ed reform movement, school choice, and promotes accurate media coverage of education issues”. But even in the political and policy-wonk hub of the nation, people simply don’t understand the issues or the movement that I have been happy to work in this summer. The number of times I have actually had to explain simply the definition of a charter school is mind-boggling.
Now don’t get me wrong, this I do gladly because the more people who know and understand what a charter school is, the better. But something has been revealed to me after two short months as an intern at the Center for Education Reform (CER) – the general public’s ignorance of education policy, reform, and the charter school movement is dangerous. It is an enemy of the movement just as much as the education establishment.
Some weeks ago at the National Charter School Conference, among other, shall we say, interesting things that occurred, I crossed paths for a short time with two attendees who were there “in protest”. While I distributed tote bags and information, they came up, looked intently at the CER logo and declined taking the bags because they were “from public schools”. Before I could say anything the attendees left and merged with the rest of the crowd. Of course, this small experience highlights the larger issue of ignorance and is just one of the many ones I have had this summer. Charter schools are public schools. Most everyone at the National Charter School Conference was from public schools, then, by extension. If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. This was one of those moments we all have, when we wish we had thought of a reply quicker.
Simply informing the public of the facts and circumstances of charter schools and the movement in general is extremely important and must be done since this ignorance is dangerous. Those two attendees at the conference (and all of those I have had to define “charter school” for) show that the public is in desperate need for the facts. Because if they don’t have them, their opinions will be cemented and founded on simply untrue ideas, like that charters aren’t public schools.
Thankfully, CER recognized the danger of ignorance towards education reform issues at the very beginning of its history. During the 1990s, it had Excellence in Journalism Awards to reward the articles that accurately represented the issues and the facts. And, thankfully, I have been able to help combat ignorance this summer in a much more 21st century way – by working on CER’s Media Bullpen website, which keeps the sources of education information accountable. Staying out front in the battle against the dangerous ignorance about charter schools is one of the most important things CER does, day in and day out.