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Misunderstanding charter schools [Letter]

After reading the recent letter from Hamilton Elementary Middle School parents, it is clear there are severe misperceptions floating around about Baltimore City public charter schools ("MarylandCAN isn't interested in kids but in pushing an anti-public school agenda," June 5).

Charter schools are public schools like Hamilton, they get their funding from the Baltimore City Public Schools system and their teachers are Baltimore City public school teachers. Moreover, the type of kids served by charters are the same as those served by traditional public schools.

There is no exclusion based on income, race, test scores, special needs, etc. Those who get into charter schools literally get their name picked out of a hat and choose to attend the charter school over the traditional public school option in their zone. Charters are pro-student learning, just as are public schools, and if they can't perform they should be closed just like any public school.

More importantly, though, the discussion should be centered around how we make all of Baltimore's schools better. Throwing around buzzwords that to some have a negative connotation like "pro-corporate," "hedge-fund" and "pro-privatization" not only is misleading but it is unhelpful in facilitating a productive discussion about how to improve the public education landscape for Baltimore City children.

Not everyone will agree on how to tackle all the issues, but a healthy debate fails when the participants start throwing blows.

Having spent time in and around several Baltimore public charter schools, traditional public schools and educational non-profits, I know there are intelligent and passionate adults working in all facets of the system, including MarylandCAN executive director Jason Botel. We are lucky to have them and could always use more. It is far from ideal at present, but it can and will get better.

What I've seen of the public feud between pro-charter and anti-charter advocates is largely based on misunderstanding. The goal should be to see both charter schools and traditional public schools improve, and the best chance for success lies in cooperation, hard work and an intolerance of mediocrity.

Dave Ross, Baltimore

The writer is president of the board of the Midtown Academy.

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