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Feedback: Schauer needs to be schooled on cyber charters
Detroit Free Press
By: Sandy Smith
September 12, 2013

As the parent of children receiving a great education in one of Michigan’s cyber charter public schools, I was dismayed to read a column in the Free Press by Mark Schauer attacking my family’s decision to pursue the best possible education for our kids.

Schauer, a candidate for governor, does a great disservice to Michigan children, Michigan parents and hundreds of great Michigan public school teachers when he lambasts charter public schools — dismissing their quality, impact and importance — and tells parents they should not have the opportunity to pursue the educational option that is best for their children if that option is not a traditional brick-and-mortar public school.

This governor and the Legislature have consistently emphasized the importance of high quality public school options for parents. Charter schools — a key choice offered to families — on average, have been performing at higher levels.

This summer, an independent study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University pegged Michigan as a national leader when it comes to the quality of charter public school education — especially in reading and math. The study estimates that, on average, Michigan charter school students gained an additional two months of learning every year in reading and math compared to their peers in similar traditional public school districts.

In Detroit, the difference was even greater. The CREDO study estimates that charter school students in Detroit gained three months of learning compared to their peers in traditional public schools, and researchers concluded that public school options most benefit “low-income, disadvantaged, and special education students.”

My husband and I made the decision to enroll our children in the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy after our family faced some serious medical issues, and we have been thrilled with the results.

If Schauer had his way, our children would be trapped in a system that didn’t work for them. Instead, they are excelling.

Contrary to Schauer’s assertions, our kids, like every child enrolled in a cyber charter school, have access to and daily interaction with fantastic public school teachers who are helping them reach new academic heights. A cyber charter school may not be right for every child, but it is working for our children, and no student should be denied access to that opportunity.

That’s why we were so encouraged when policy-makers lifted the enrollment cap and expanding options for parents whose students learn best in an interactive, online environment. Before this action, the state had a waiting list of more than 5,000 parents who wanted the cyber option for their children. Beginning this school year more Michigan families have the opportunity to take advantage of online learning.

Gov. Snyder and lawmakers deserve a great deal of praise for getting so much right. By putting kids first, expanding school choice for parents and embracing new technologies and new teaching methods, this back-to-school season is more exciting than ever before for thousands of families across the state.

Sandy Smith

Michigan chapter, National Coaltion for Public School Options

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