Elizabeth Dorn Parker, Ed.D. Credit: Kimberly M. Wang at Eardog Productions (eardogfoto)

Magnet and Charter schools have been around for over 30 years in our County and have been endorsed by educators like me since their inception. 

Each provides educational options offered to parents from their school boards. 

It’s important to remember these educational institutions are required by the state of California to provide certain curriculum standards- including highly trained and educated teachers, individualized special education programs, safe facilities, and resources beyond the classroom walls such as food, social and emotional experts, clothing, housing, and transportation. 

The decision parents face of neighborhood public schools, district magnet schools, versus Charter schools, is an important one. There is much to consider as they weigh which bests suits their situation and child’s educational needs.

But as they research the information to base their choice on, are there outside forces trying to unduly influence them with misinformation to fit a political agenda?

It appears so in my opinion.

I find it troubling and disturbing that an extreme political group centered around Hillsdale College, a small Christian college in Michigan whose mission is to dismantle public education by replacing those with charter schools that have a politically religious conservative agenda, have inserted that agenda in Orange County.

This mission is being led by Jeff and Mari Barke, politicians that opened a Hillsdale charter school locally here in the county and plan to open a dozen more.  The Barke’s, along with congressional candidate Scott Baugh, I feel are actively fear-mongering and leading families to falsely believe educational choices are being stripped away

But that’s simply not the case, and convincing parents they must “fight” and “defend” themselves against teachers and other parents wanting different choices, is dangerous and irresponsible in my opinion.  This combative culture concept is fueling dangerous confrontations in school board meetings, in schools, and on sidewalks where children walk and bike to school.

When politicians with no professional education experience, or religious institutions looking for members, or ‘wall street companies’ looking for profits claim to know what is best for all students, I think we all must question the real agendas behind this.

Is it to make our children pawns in a larger political game where profits rule the day over education?  Or is the goal to simply create chaos in public schools to weaken them and ultimately dismantle them for their own agendas?

The divisive rhetoric utilized by people like the Barkes and Baugh, actually takes the focus away from how best to create publicly-funded neighborhood schools to support success for all children and their families, and places it on how to benefit the few.   Good charter schools that successfully educate children using innovative, research-based pedagogy, and that focus on successful outcomes for all students, are but one ‘tool’ in our public school ‘tool belts.’  

And in the education discussion, it shouldn’t boil down to ‘us versus them.’  Instead, we all should be working together to ensure all local tax-funded public schools receive the support and resources they need and are held accountable for the success of all students enrolled.  

Elizabeth Dorn Parker, Ed.D.
Costa Mesa Resident
Governing Board Member, Coast Community College District
Vice-Chair and Treasurer, Samueli Academy Charter School
Trustee, OC Board of Education, retired (1982-2012)

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