by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The latest News & Observer article on charter schools revisits the most unsubstantiated claim about charter schools – that failure to provide transportation and subsidized meals discourages low-income families from applying to or attending North Carolina charter schools. Cue former Wake County school board member Tom Benton.
Tom Benton, former chairman of the Wake County school board, sees the racial imbalance at schools in his town of Zebulon. …
Charters can seal themselves from their surroundings by not offering transportation or student meals, Benton said, creating conditions in which they become enclaves for students who have the fewest needs and cost the least to educate.
“Charters have opened the doors to us resegregating our schools,” he said. “At some point, I think we need to have a serious public policy debate about how do we weigh this thing of parental choice, when parental choice allows us to resegregate our schools.”
I would like Tom Benton (or any other charter opponent) to identify families who have chosen not to enroll in a charter school because the school did not offer transportation or subsidized student meals. I have heard this accusation for years, but I have yet to encounter evidence of a widespread problem.
The truth is that charter schools will make every effort to ensure that transportation and meals are not barriers to attendance. This includes reimbursing parents or providers who transport children to the school. It also includes setting aside funds to cover the cost of school meals ordered through vendors.
Despite what Benton says and folks like him apparently believe, charter school leaders are not heartless bastards looking for ways to stick it to the poor.