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Your Turn, NH: Save charter schools and you save many of our children

September 30. 2012 7:52PM

I am an educator, the mother of a high school student and aunt of 10 other students in the State of New Hampshire, and I am heartsick that the state is suspending and could potentially eliminate funding for charter schools. This would be an enormous disservice to the children of New Hampshire.

Not all children are the same, and not all children can learn in the same ways. Yet our public schools cannot and do not accommodate all children in the way that we would hope. Many children are slipping through the cracks and not getting the kind of education they deserve, not because their public schools are necessarily bad or lacking, but because these kids don't fit the mold. And in classes of 20 to 40 students, teachers can't teach to the mold and all of the exceptions, equally or effectively.

My son has not been interested, inspired or in any way motivated by his public schools since third grade. I am eternally grateful to his third-grade teacher, who recognized that he was an out-of-the-box child and was willing to work with him. (Ms. Stone, you will always be my hero.) By the end of his fifth-grade year, he was so frustrated and unmotivated by school that he wanted to drop out of school forever, assuring me he'd work at a gas station and be just fine. He is now a sophomore, and every day I pray and hope that he will make it through all four years of high school.

Each year has been a war with him just to get through the year, regardless of how bored and miserable he was, and with the schools to get them to pay some attention to the children on the fringe, the ones who aren't really being educated, but sit there and get by. So far, I've been winning the war to keep him going, mostly because he knows that's where his social life is. But I lost the wars with the schools. They think he's doing fine because he can do well on the testing and can get good grades.

Sure, he's a smart kid. He can regurgitate to you whatever you want to him to. But is that what we want for our children's education, to know they can spit back whatever information is given to them? He's not interested or motivated; he's not learning. He's not being educated. And he's not being inspired to do any more, improve himself, grow, continue learning or to do anything with is life.

I have two nieces, younger and coming up through New Hampshire's public schools, with similar issues. They are creative and learn differently. They are out-of-the-box kids, and they are not receiving an adequate education from the public schools because they don't fit the mold. And I know at least a dozen other children all in the same situation.

We have a responsibility to teach these children. Parents and children must have choice. There must be options to ensure that we are doing the best we can for all the children of our state, not just the ones who sit nicely, listen quietly and complete standardized tests with high scores. In fact, if the testing is what we care about, consider that they'd do better on the testing if they were being taught in a way that made them actually care about learning.

Our charter schools, existing and newly proposed, are the saving grace for these children - not just to provide them educations, but to literally save their lives, to give them futures, to inspire and motivate them to become intelligent, caring, active members of our communities. Without these charter schools, we are going to lose out on some exceptionally good schools, but our children are going to lose out on their right to an education, and they are losing out on their futures.

I have had my hopes set on a proposed new charter school, the Seacoast High School for the Arts, to save not only my son and nieces, but also many other local children I know through my work in the community. I do not even want to think about what their futures will (or won't) hold for them, the ways in which we will fail them, if this alternative does not become a reality.

We are paying for them to go to school, regardless of where they go. Suspending the funding for charter schools does not save the state money; it only means redistributing the money for these children. If we are paying for them to be in school, why not pay for them to actually get an education, an education that will serve them and make them the best they can be? I, for one, would prefer to have my money do good for these kids and give them futures, and not be wasted on a seat they fill but from which they get nothing. I implore the state school board to reconsider this issue and step up to do the best for all the children of New Hampshire. Save our ability to have a choice in the education of our children, and save our children. Please continue state funding for our charter schools.

Karen Desrosiers is a writer and artist in Exeter.

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