The Marcus Garvey Academy, a Cleveland charter school already slated to close at the end of this school year, instead closed its doors today, February 20.  The closure leaves approximately 100 students without a school with a little more than half of the school year remaining.  These young students lives will be disrupted just a few months before they were scheduled to take the state’s standardized tests to measure the school’s impact on their educational progress.

This is so weird, isn’t it?  I mean, I thought public schools had a responsibility to offer a free education to residents.  And charter schools ARE public schools, aren’t they?  At least that’s what all the charter school proponents keep saying.

Anyway, the publicly-financed Marcus Garvey Academy apparently has no obligation to assist these displaced students.  But there are others targeting these students:

Other charter schools have been calling Marcus Garvey parents, trying to persuade them to transfer their children, said Brian Fiore, a teacher and school improvement coach.

(Plain Dealer, 2/3/12)

What will these children will do when those other charters shut down?  They will simply enroll in REAL public schools:

  • Public schools that won’t shut down mid-year.
  • Public schools that provide an education to all children.
  • Public schools that are overseen by taxpayer-elected officials, not private management companies.
  • Public schools that aren’t focused on profit margins.

Consider this: while the Ohio Department of Education may have the authority to close both charter and public schools, they do not have the same authority to open them.  If a district closes a school, they can’t simply ignore the children who are enrolled — they must provide classes for those students somewhere else in the district.  But when a charter school permanently shuts it doors, the charter school must….nothing.  Charters NEVER have a responsibility to provide classrooms for residents — they are private businesses that can close up shop if they are no longer profitable.  The Ohio Department of Education can’t demand that a private charter school open a school in a certain location, but a school district MUST if the student population demands it.

The fact is, every student who lives within a district’s boundaries is the responsibility of that school district, regardless of where the parents choose to send them.  If every private charter school spontaneously shut down, the local district would be responsible for taking them in — it’s not a choice.

And that simple clarification of a school’s responsibility to the children in the community is how we can distinguish between private charter schools and public school districts.

It’s probable that grown-ups are losing money over the Marcus Garvey debacle, but without a doubt there are children suffering a major disruption to their learning environment.

Money can be replaced.