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Bless the heart of the county commissioners, I think we all will come knocking on your doors when we receive our new...

Charter schools offer variety

RhondaDillingham

Rhonda Dillingham

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Summer is right around the corner and with it come all those edible delights we particularly enjoy in North Carolina. One that many of us find especially tasty is the tomato sandwich.

Daydream with me for a moment. You’ve visited your local farmers’ market and among the fresh produce you bring home is that giant, bright red, juicy tomato, just perfect for the sandwich you plan to have for lunch today. You go to the fridge and pull out your favorite (has to be Duke’s) mayonnaise, and then you reach for the bread.

You know the kind. That soft, fluffy white bread our doctors advise us to avoid. Still, no other kind will do, except all you can find it that dense, ultra-healthy multi-grain bread. Not at all what you had in mind! Worse, what if that multi-grain bread was the only kind available to you? Life would become pretty dull indeed, and our tomato sandwiches just wouldn’t be the same. Yes, variety is the spice of life!

And that’s what I love about charter schools! Many people aren’t sure what a charter school is. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are operated by independent nonprofit boards of directors. You might be thinking that it’s quite a stretch, comparing bread to schools, but it’s the same principle.

Education should not be a one-size-fits-all proposition. Children learn in a myriad of ways. As a former high school English teacher, this concept became relevant to me early on in my career when I was attempting to teach vocabulary. Students just weren’t getting it. My students’ learning was transformed, however, when instead of giving them a list of words and dictionaries, I developed a vocabulary basketball game that got students up and out of their seats having fun while expanding their vocabularies.

Charter schools provide parents with a choice of the educational institution that is best for their children. As a product of North Carolina public schools, I had some great teachers, but my learning would have been transformed if I could have gone to a school that integrated my love of music into daily instruction.

What about students who love science and math? Students who learn best doing hands-on projects? Students who prefer a smaller learning community? Students who are able to better focus in a same gender setting? We have charter schools in North Carolina that fit all of those descriptions … and more. We even have schools where students can learn how to grow that juicy red tomato.

This is National Charter Schools Week, and charter schools across the nation will be celebrating the academic strides their students are making. National public charter school enrollment exceeds 3 million — over 91,000 of whom are in our state.

Their parents choose to send them to one of the 167 charter schools we now have available in North Carolina. I support their right to choose, and I am not alone. A 2016 survey conducted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools found that nearly 80 percent of parents support their right to choose which public schools their children should attend.

The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools is celebrating the week in honor of the loyal public charter school educators and the families they serve. We’d like you’d like to celebrate with us.

Let’s be real here. Although I prefer my tomato sandwich on that light white bread, many of you may prefer the heartier, multi-grain version. Ultimately, it’s really not about which one is right or wrong. It’s about the right to choose for yourself which is best from a variety of exciting options. It’s the spice of life.

Rhonda Dillingham is executive director N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools.

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