In his column on Oct. 26, Jamaal E. Smith writes, “The students of Pulaski High School should be exposed to the same education as the students at Carmen” in response to the proposed Pulaski-Carmen partnership that has been supported by MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver as well as Pulaski’s principal, Lolita Patrick. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I think it is important for our community to support and understand the facts behind the proposal.
Unfortunately, Mr. Smith included outright falsehoods in building his case for opposing the partnership. His assertion that “…charter schools are able to select the students they desire” is patently false. By state law, charter schools must enroll any student who wishes to attend, and must hold selection at random if more students enroll than there are seats.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to sit in on Carmen High School of Science and Technology’s lottery in which students were randomly drawn to begin 9th grade at the school out of hundreds who wished to enroll. Knowing the impact it has on families — those who get in and those who are on the wait list — has built grassroots community support for this partnership. Yes, the students of Pulaski should be exposed to the same quality education as students at Carmen, and that is why a partnership between the two schools—which would be open to anyone and serve the needs of all students—is precisely the sort of “win-win” scenario we should pursue.
It makes sense for the Carmen students who would benefit from Pulaski’s successful tech education programs. It makes sense for Pulaski students who could take advantage of Carmen’s successful Advanced Placement courses and rigorous college prep curriculum which led to 100 percent of the school’s 2014 class being accepted into a four-year college or university.
Additionally, the partnership makes sense for MPS as a whole, as the district actually sees substantial revenue from its partnership with the charter schools they authorize. Mr. Smith’s assertion that non-instrumentality MPS charters schools such as Carmen “drain money” from the system is, again, false. The fact is that the district receives around $10,000 in state aid for each student Carmen enrolls, but under the charter contract only pays Carmen $8,075. From the funds Carmen receives from MPS, the school also pays a lease and an administrative overhead fee to MPS.
Lastly, charter schools are public schools. Carmen’s students count as district students for the purposes of state aid, testing results, and the rules and regulations that govern other public schools in our state. Carmen is accountable to the Milwaukee Board of School Directors through its charter contract. It’s time to support the growth and successes of our public schools.