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An important win for Jeffco charter schools: one mom’s impassioned perspective

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The Jefferson County Public School Board of Education Meeting was the place to be on Thursday night. It was standing room only, literally, and by the time the meeting officially started at 6:30 p.m. people were being turned away due to fire code and space issues.

As a concerned parent, voter, and taxpayer in Jefferson County, this meeting piqued my interest. Up for discussion was the equalization of funds for public charter schools. I felt it was important for my voice to be heard, so I wrote a letter to the Board (below) and spoke at the meeting. It was amazing to see so many parents there!

The Board majority approved a $3.7 million line item for charter schools. In my opinion this is a huge step in the right direction.

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Dear Jefferson County Public School Board of Education,I am the parent of a student who attends Woodrow Wilson Academy, a JeffCo public charter school in Westminster, CO. This is our third year at this public charter school.Our assigned neighborhood school is not the closest school to our house, due to the way the boundaries are drawn. When I researched the bus and logistics, I discovered it would be cheaper and quicker to drive my daughter to and from school myself, so I explored our options through choice enrollment. Since I’d be providing transportation anyway, we looked for a school that would be the best fit for us.I drew a circle around our house on the map and researched the different schools in that radius.

As you know, JeffCo is a fantastic district. In that radius, I found a variety of different public schools, both public charter and district run. I visited every school on my list, researched the curricula, and filled out choice enrollment paperwork for our top choices.

As luck would have it, we got a spot in our top choice. This public charter school has a curriculum that challenges and enthuses my daughter, a wonderful level of parent involvement, and it IS a public school.

Yes, we’re a charter school. Yes, we’re a public school. Yes, we’re proud to be JeffCo.

It saddens me when our differences are used to pit us against each other, when in fact we’re on the same side and have the same goals. All JeffCo parents have a choice on where to send their children, and we all have our children’s best interests at heart.

The reasons vary, but the results are the same: we care about our kids, regardless of which type of public school they attend.

As a JeffCo parent and voter, I’m concerned about the equalization of funding for public charter schools. The wording in 3A/3B did not exclude public charter schools, and denying the equalization of these funds does a disservice to ALL public school kids of Jefferson County.

If I dropped my child off at our neighborhood school, she’d be worth $1,400 of the mill levy. Because I drop her off in front of a public school that happens to be a public charter school, she’s worth $247 dollars.

My child’s worth should not be based on the name on the door that’s held open for her every morning.

Frankly, it’s not right, and it sends a message of inequality that disappoints me.

We’re on the same side. Our kids are the focus. We’re all JeffCo.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

JoAnn E. Rasmussen
JeffCo Parent and Voter

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber April 5, 2014

    I grew up thinking public school was the only option and it likely was because we just didn’t have charter schools; the choices were public or pricy private.

    I had that same mentality that my kids would go to their area public school (a great one) but then I had a daughter who didn’t fit the mold. A friend introduced me to a Waldorf charter and it was a fantastic fit. Two years later, my daughter has never been happier at her charter school while my son is thriving at our neighborhood public school.

  • comment avatar Amber April 5, 2014

    P.S. Every child’s needs are so different and they should be given the opportunity to choose.

  • comment avatar Tim April 5, 2014

    NO doubt then Ms. Rasumssen would also be in favor of holding all schools accountable to the same standards?

  • comment avatar JoAnn April 5, 2014

    It’s amazing to me how much misinformation has cropped up about public charter schools. These rumors were dispelled years ago, but they’re back, and they’re being used to turn the public school parents against each other.

    Imagine what we could do for our kids if we realized we were on the same side!

  • comment avatar Emily April 5, 2014

    Thank you for this! My daughter struggled at our neighborhood school and they weren’t really able to address her special needs. We have found such a great fit at the Waldorf charter. I’m so grateful we have that option.

  • comment avatar Ben April 5, 2014

    Yes, Tim, all public schools are held accountable to the same standards.

    JoAnn, great piece, and agree with you wholeheartedly about the Board’s decision Thursday night. I also loved reading your story of how you searched for a school through choice enrollment. While drawing a circle on a map is still a valid method, I encourage parents to make use of the search tool (and other information) available at http://schoolchoiceforkids.org.

  • comment avatar JoAnn April 5, 2014

    Public charter schools DO have to take the TCAP or CMAS or PARCC (the names keep changing, so it’s hard to keep up). They ARE held to very high standards. This is another misconception that people have.

  • comment avatar JoAnn April 6, 2014

    Ben, thanks for posting that link!

    Years ago, when we started the research process, we got a packet of information from our Preschool Director about the different schools in the area. Since then, there have been a few different websites pop up providing information, too. The link you posted is a great place to start the process!

  • comment avatar Kate Matthews April 7, 2014

    Charter schools are not held to the same standards as public schools. They routinely exclude populations of students, such as special needs, and often have lower test scores than public schools.

  • comment avatar JoAnn April 8, 2014

    Public charter schools ARE held to very high standards, and they do NOT routinely exclude populations of students. Many do everything in their power to see that the needs of kids are met.

    It’s too bad that this misinformation is being spread about public charter schools.

    Public charters are just a different type of public school. It would be like trying to pit the neighborhood public schools against each other. Are they all the same? No. Are they all public schools? Absolutely!

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