*Public schools are funded by tax dollars. This model is based on the idea that a community is supposed to support local schools because local families would make use of those schools. Schools in turn are supposed to service local children.
Unfortunately this system does not always work. Taxes, because they pay for more than schools, are always collected. But schools do not always service the children of the community.
In Rockland County, NY, a number of Yeshivas receive public funding but operate as private schools and can deny admittance to non Jewish students. These schools are draining resources from the local public schools. And because the Yeshivas get public funding they are deemed part of the local school district which has allowed for Jewish members of the community (who are correctly interested in making sure the Yeshivas are well funded) to gain school board seats and control the fate of non-Jewish schools.
But even in communities in which the population is ethnically, culturally, and religiously homogenous, charter schools pose a similar problem. They drain public funds but restrict access to the school. Because charter schools are able to select their student body they are able to amass a student population that can post above average scores on standardized tests. These test scores will naturally make the school more attractive and lead to more applications from which the school will pick the best and brightest.
These schools are missing their mission. Schools are supposed to be for the children in the surrounding community. Any variations on this concept should not receive public monies; and if they do they should be made to attain certain conditions.
The non-elite, or in the case of Rockland County non-Jewish, children deserve every chance to succeed. But they are being shortchanged when resources are routed away from their schools. This is not about embracing and endorsing mediocrity. It is about ensuring equality of opportunity.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]