So what's the deal with Charter schools?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by lucybelle, Feb 1, 2015.

  1. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I'll be honest- I didn't like the idea of charter schools because I felt like I shouldn't. Never did any research on it, only "heard" bad things.

    But there's a few magnet and charter schools popping up in my area that seem freaking amazing! (of course that's what their websites are supposed to do) These schools partner with nearby hospitals or research companies to give kids lots of hands on practice. One of the schools has the students doing rotations in a hospital by their senior year. Another partners with biotech companies and has all sorts of amazing resources for the kids to use.

    As a science teacher, it seems too good to be true. So is it? Are charter schools really that bad?
     
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  3. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    There's nothing at all wrong with charter schools: unless they take money from public schools.

    What's happening in many places is that for-profit charters open with no oversight as to how the public money is spent. 19 executives of the K12 Charter systems make over a million a year. Can you imagine a district paying salaries like this with tax payer money? These people are not paid based on test scores or graduation rates, but enrollment.

    Often charters are held up as having higher test scores, but they leave out that often charters don't take students with IEPs or ELL students. The KIPP Schools have a 60% attrition rate: they taken in 100 poor mostly black students and push out the bottom 60 who don't have the parental support or persistence to keep up. What happens to the public schools? All their models are stripped off and they are left with less money and the most expensive students to educate.

    There's nothing wrong with charters, just the money thing.
     
  4. Topsy

    Topsy Rookie

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    I was actually wondering the same thing! I am taking a grad course about teaching science, and of course it fired me up about how science is taught to elementary kids in my district. Dry, dry, dry by teachers who really have no particular love or feel for science, and who don't like their rooms to get messy. I was talking to my advisor, who says that at her school (several states away) actually has science experimenting as a pull out, and she tries to coordinate with classroom teachers so that her experiments tie in with their lessons.

    She says the kids love it, the teachers love it, admin loves it... but that it only came about because the district had to accommodate a massive population surge in a crazy short period of time. Creating new pull outs allowed them to get up and running quickly without having to hire all new music, art, PE, etc. teachers.

    It bummed me out a little because there would have to be blood in the streets, or some kind of heaven and earth moving event to make that change happen in our district or our state. And I was bummed because I didn't think there could ever be a school that wasn't bound by all the restrictions and that calcified "way things have been always done around here" mentality.

    And then I wondered about charters...!
     
  5. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    This can turn into quite a discussion, but I think there are 2 levels of analysis - looking at the potential for an individual charter school to be good, and whether or not the charter school movement has been helpful in improving education.

    With analyzing specific schools, I'd say it's very school dependent. There are some great ones, some awful ones - just like public or private schools.

    From analyzing things on a more macro level, which I don't necessarily think is the point of your post (though somewhat related), you've highlighted one benefit of charters - that it can be easier for them to think outside the box and do innovative things that other schools aren't. The comeback is that there really shouldn't be anything limiting public schools from doing this either, but all of the other burdens placed on public schools do make things harder to get done.

    Still, I think charters are attractive to conceptual leaders in education because there is more freedom to do creative things. Even 20 years ago before some of the current stuff existed that public schools get bogged with, I'm not sure we saw this type of creativity you're talking about. So, I think - however good or bad the net balance of the charter school movement is determined the be - there have been some positive aspects.
     
  6. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Well said Tyler.
     
  7. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I have a strong opinion on this subject, but to avoid offending anyone, I'll just say that my opinion of most charter schools is similar to my opinion of VAM systems of evaluation, high-stakes testing, and other "reform" measures.
     
  8. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Magnet schools can be good - we have some excellent county-run magnet schools here in NJ - one of which is one of the top HSes in the nation, it has something like 5% of students with IEPs, too.

    Charter schools can be a bit spottier.
     
  9. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    You will like this one grade3. Our district has been going to "choice" schools which is the districts versión of chárter schools.

    One of the "choice" schools is to be bilingual, you will enter in kínder and speak Spanish when leaving in 6th grade....LOL.

    There idea of a bilingual "choice" school is...wait for it...not ONE teacher, educator, aid..etc is biligual certified, NOT one speaks Spanish, not one teaches Spanish, not one teaches IN Spanish. It is 100% Rosetta Stone during your computer lab time. That's right, no teachers speak Spanish, no Spanish classes, just a computer program during your computer time.
     
  10. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    In some ways, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There are procedures you might want to implement if 95% of your students have no home support that you wouldn't want to implement if 60% had no support.

    There are procedures and methods you might want to implement when almost all students are difficult compared to only a portion.

    It is easier to really hit hard on the basics when almost everyone left is at that level.

    There is less interference from parents that are checked out than those that are engaged. (Well, except for the ones that just like to find something to be mad about but don't help in other ways.)
     
  11. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I am teaching at a public charter school and love it. Without going into the politics of whether charters are good for education, I think charters are likely similar to any other place of employment... some good, some bad.
     
  12. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    So it seems like it's the business of charter schools where most of the issues lie. Not so much teaching there. Teaching at charter schools can be hit or miss just like any public or private school.?
     
  13. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Agreed 100%.

    I've worked at two charters - one for my first 2 years of teaching, and one now for my 3rd year. I've had a fabulous experience at both, but they are very different.

    I was really hesitant about charters when I accepted my first job, but I was living in So Cal, a VERY tough elementary ed market, so I took what I could get. I was pleasantly surprised! I really liked working at that school. I had passionate, kind colleagues and good admin. It was in a low income area and we had just as many (if not more) ELs and SpEd students as surrounding schools. The difference was that our school was able to make decisions for OUR students. I student taught in two giant So Cal districts. Both of those districts were half haves/half have nots. It led to a very odd setup. The "have not" schools where I student taught were under a LOT of district pressure and mandates because their students were not performing at the level of the richer students in the "have" areas. I didn't like that the individual schools had no power to implement policies for their students. Everything came from the top down. At both schools, teachers were unhappy and frustrated. The charter I worked at was a much happier environment.

    I now work at a different charter in a different area of the state, and I love it. This time around, I applied to both public and charters again, but I could tell right away that this charter was a great fit for me. I have amazing colleagues, admin, and PD. We have a LOT of freedom. Our principal encourages us to experiment and try what's best for our students. We also get to teach using the workshop model, which is rare around here!

    In California, charters are strictly regulated. I've never worked for one of the big corporation charters (KIPP, etc) so I can't really speak to those. In CA, charters have a specific focus - something that makes them different, whether it's arts, STEM, project-based, workshop, tech, etc.

    I am extremely happy where I am, and don't see myself leaving any time soon, or even any time ever! I love the freedom I have, and the supportive environment, which are things I didn't see in public districts. But I am NOT anti-public!! Every district is different, just like every charter is different.

    One of the things I love about my charter is that we do lots of PD with districts and public schools in the area. There is NO "us vs. them" mentality like I've seen with some charters. We collaborate with all types of schools.

    I really think that you should take each charter on a case by case basis. Some are excellent, some aren't, just like public or private schools. Research, research, research.
     
  14. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    I would agree with this. The other thing to think about is that charters really vary from state to state. Not all states implement the same regulations California does, but CA has had charters for over 20 years. In many other states, they are a brand new phenomenon and haven't really found their place yet.
     
  15. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I still don't know how I really feel about charters, and I've been working on forming an opinion since 2009, when I found out I'd be student teaching in one.

    I think charters CAN be great, but you really have to find the right one. And, what's right for the students attending can be downright awful for the teachers.

    My first year teaching was at a charter. We did many things that could be considered great for kids, but teachers were miserable. Since most charters don't have unions, admin can get away with requiring a lot of extra work from teachers that admin at regular public schools wouldn't be able to get away with.

    So, no matter if you're looking to work in one or send a kid to one, you definitely need to research the individual charter, but be on the lookout for different things, depending on which angle you're coming from.
     
  16. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    The charter schools in my area, with one or two exceptions, are very low-performing. Quite a few have been closed due to mismanagement and fraud.
     
  17. missrebecca

    missrebecca Comrade

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    I've been a sub and a classroom teacher in different public charter schools. I mean, DIFFERENT!

    I love my current public charter school, which has more parent involvement and support for teachers than I've ever seen. We're in a rural area, and we're very community-oriented. We do have our weak points, particularly our SPED department and lack of clear direction from administration. We also get paid much lower than public school teachers in the area, but most of us were willing to trade that for a less stressful environment.

    The public charter schools I subbed in were located in bad areas of town and had the typical issues that come with poverty... badly behaved students, lack of teacher support, lack of parent involvement, questionable leadership.... Still, there were some amazing teachers, and it was a better alternative than many of the public schools in the area. (I taught in one of those public schools, and got out as fast as I could.)

    Just knowing a school is a "charter" tells you very little. You have to dig for more information and talk to people who have been there. I don't see how people can be "for" or "against" charter schools as a whole, because the schools can be so vastly different from one another.
     
  18. daisycakes

    daisycakes Companion

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    I agree with others that it is a mixed bag. On a whole, studies show charters don't perform better or worse than other public schools, except in very urban environments, where they tend to do better.

    I support charter schools and think competition is good for education. Not all charter schools are for-profit. I worked at a community charter founded by teachers and parents living in a neighborhood and there are many in my geographic area like that. I am fine with charter schools "taking money away from public schools" if they are community-led, public schools. I never bought the "taking money" argument because charters usually spring up with a regular public school closes due to historic failure and the district has to vote to let another organization try to reopen a new school in its place. So, if the district can't get the job done, what's so wrong with a community group taking over? I do agree that for-profit charters are awful and should not be allowed.

    Also, some people here are saying they refuse to take SPED students or students who do not perform well in school. This is, at least in my state, not at all true. We had to take every single child who applied and, if we had too many kids apply, we held a randomized lottery. This meant we actually had MORE SPED kids than other schools because their parents were the ones applying in droves. There were times we wanted to kick students with severe problems (dangerous and violent) out of our school, but could not because of the same regulations in place at normal public schools.
     
  19. teacherguy111

    teacherguy111 Cohort

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    I am always intrigued by this question…. I have not worked in a charter school but do currently work in a 'magnet' school. We are not a charter school but in some ways it feels like one. We are not part of a district. We were founded with a partnership with the university in our town and a big research company.

    I believe that in my city, there are good charter schools and bad ones. I have heard good things about Kipp and imagine schools overall.
     
  20. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I've always worked at charter schools. There are good schools and not so good schools. There are good management companies and then there are not so good management companies. The not so good management companies are usually run by people who are in it for the money.

    As long as we have an opening in a particular grade level, we have to take the student, IEP, ELL, or not. Last year we had a child who really needed a center based program, the most we could offer him was resource room. The parent chose to keep him at our school until the end of the year. This year, the student is going to a program that is more appropriate for him.
     
  21. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Charter schools on the basis of being a charter school aren't bad or better.

    It depends on the admin/CEO. The school near us that is charter is a great school for students. They do a lot of cool things. But it's a horrible school for the teachers. They get paid very little, have almost no rights or benefits, and there is a caustic environment.

    In addition, the school can kick out whoever they want because of low scores, behavior, whatever. One of my former students have already been kicked out of that school. This power can lead them to only accepting the best students and thus continuing to represent their population and student body as better than the schools around who get their rejects.

    On this basis, they should not be getting government money, and should be privately funded instead.
     
  22. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    This points out another irksome result of publicly-funded charters: resegregation. Charters often appeal to parents of one race or another. After the migration to a charter of one race, the public schools are left with a concentration of the other race.

    Some of the charters in mostly white areas have become little country club schools for students whose parents have the economic wherewithal to drive them to school; all paid for by the tax payers.
     
  23. teacherguy111

    teacherguy111 Cohort

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    I have seen a little bit of the segregation mentioned above. There is a charter school in my area that teaches Arabic… it is not a muslim school but is pretty much 100% muslim. Mostly immigrant/black families.

    Not sure if that counts as segregation or not.
     
  24. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I'm a public charter school teacher, having also experienced a regular public school and... I really don't see much of a difference. Our school isn't allowed to cap class sizes, turn anyone away, etc, just like the rest of the public schools. We have kids with IEPs, ELL students, etc. What makes us attractive is that we boast an optional Spanish emersion program with Spanish lessons on a smaller scale for the rest of the students.

    I've yet to feel an extreme difference as a teacher.
     
  25. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Also in my state, most charters do use public money (hence the reason the state has so much control). I explain to my father we answer to the state office of education, not a district. I have no problem with charters using public money because, in my area, the charters are very much public schools, simply formed by a community approaching the state with the wish to open a public school with such-n-such qualifications.

    For all intents and purposes, it's a true public school, just with a bit more bargaining on what to do.
     
  26. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    Except people look at charter school as the answers to our problems with education. Most people don't know these facts. More and more charter schools- what is going to happen to the bottom 60 that keeps getting pushed out of all of these charter schools?
     
  27. iteachbx

    iteachbx Enthusiast

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    I would say so.


    But I also know that many charter schools in my area have a bad reputation for how they treat teachers. Teachers do not have a union, they work significantly longer hours, no preps, lunch duty, working on the weekend. These are not things that happen to union teachers in the public schools. I wouldn't work in a public school in our city but I know its different in other areas.
     
  28. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    They will go back to the base school. If it changes because of those that have left, the base school might end up being a better fit depending on why the student had to leave the charter. Or they look for a different charter that might fit the needs better.

    Yes, people look at choice as an option to help answer some of the problems with education. I'd hate my kid stuck in a school that has the attitude that the school can't do any better because of the kids they are required to serve, and I couldn't afford to move to a different boundary. My district keeps changing boundaries for various reasons from overcrowding to wanting to adjust the population. We have no charters. Many parents here would love to have some choice of where their kids are able to go.
     
  29. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    My experience is mostly as a parent sending kids to our local charter school, and a little bit of subbing in the same school as well.
    Our school is HUGE, k-12, it's public school, gets 75% of district money per each student. It serves some 20+ districts in the area. It has a lottery system to get in. Someone suggested the other day that it has more IEP/SPED students than local schools.

    I had my younger child there from the beginning, I transferred my oldest one in 4th grade. Our school, with it longer hours and days, defnitely has a stronger curriculum, go deeper into things, more writing, plus, they have very strong spanish program starting at K all the way to 12th grade (local public schools start ~7 grade)
    Also, they are not as obsessed about teaching to the tests, especially when it comes to PSSAs, etc.

    Now, as a sub, it's kind of hard to judge, because I can only get a liitle bit of info here and there.
    What I don't like about school is that it's becoming a little too much obsessed with getting mroe and more students and not paying attention to some basic needs.

    For example, a big chunk of people come to our school just for full day K (other districts have 1/2 day), then they leave after that. The school obviously is encouraging it, because they keep increasing the number of K every year, even though there are extreme shortage of bathrooms (we would have 2-3 classes, 27 students in each, use the same boy/girl bathrooms for 4-5 stalls!). Also, dangerious conditions on the playground with that many students (3-4 K classes on the playground where 2 would already be too much)

    I wouldn't say it's much better when it comes to basic needs of teachers. For example, in one of the buildings, with 4 floors, with tons of classrooms in each, there is only 1 staff bathroom, and 1 more is the office all the way downstairs. Plus, they have a strict rule about not using kids' bathrooms.

    As for other teacher conditions, I know they work longer hours than public schools, have constant duties, don't know about the pay.

    So, I'm satisfied with the school as a parent and a sub. I'm not sure I would want to work there.
     
  30. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    just curious, what do you mean by caustic environment?
     
  31. teacherguy111

    teacherguy111 Cohort

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    What about teacher pay? How does it compare in charter schools in your state?
     
  32. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    Here is AZ charter schools are everywhere. Some are good, some are not. It depends on the people running them. If they don't have education backgrounds then they make a lot of mistakes in trying to run them like a business.
     
  33. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    What is happening to them now?
     
  34. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Again, this happens to be their school, and is not indicative of all charter schools, but she says that the CEO who runs their school has a habit of playing one teacher against another, treats teachers like minimum wage workers, and of the teachers who work there, many do not want to collaborate with each other.

    Also they have very few benefits many of the teachers are very angry with their CEO.
     
  35. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    As a charter school teacher, my pay falls right in line with the rest of the state. Now, our state's teacher pay varies from district to district as each district gets a bit of say in duties, etc, so it really does all balance out nicely.

    But I feel good with the pay.

    I did have a mentor teacher tell me to only avoid private schools as those pay teachers the least. I don't know if that's true as a general rule...
     
  36. magister

    magister Rookie

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    I had an interview w/a new charter school in a poorer district of my state last week. The school is brand new, with only K-2 grades and expanding to 3rd in the 2015-2016 academic year. They function on a grant and some private means and are not as accountable to the public as a traditional public school is.

    I prepped for the interview by spending lots of time on lesson planning and outcomes. I rehearsed and rehearsed. Strange things was that in the interview we didn't even touch on lesson planning or my style at all; in fact, we philosophized about education and whatnot for over twenty minutes. I even brought in a sample piece of work from an old Language Arts lesson to show them. In the end they said they'd call me in a week to say whether I would do a read aloud lesson or not. Hoping I get the ok.

    My theory is that these schools are popping up rapidly for three reasons: 1. function as relief valve for public schools with high student to teacher ratios 2. can offer smaller (less than twenty students) classes 3. allow more flexibility to the administrators (less accountability to the state) in terms of student performance, a troubling issue over the past decades that has seen many teachers leave in frustration due to excessive paperwork and scrutiny over their teaching practices.
     
  37. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    A lot of the criticism I hear about Charters have to do with poor working conditions but my state is the only one (I believe) that passed a law saying Unions/unionization must be allowed in Charter schools. So, I don't consider poor working conditions that big deal of a deal when I think about the negatives of Charters.

    Honestly, the only Charters I know of here are "public charters" where the Charter school is part of and run by the local school district. These schools have special programs and extra autonomy compared to the regular public schools in the district, BUT how they are funded and what costs they have to cover is much different than at a magnet school or a regular, "non-themed" school. For example, my district mandates that Charters cover the cost of staff benefits which is normally a district expense and they do not provide any money for athletic programs/activities.

    I work at one of these public Charters and I see no difference in the work conditions or teacher expectations compared to when I worked at non-charters - but that has a lot to do with Union protection. While my school is small and class sizes are smaller; my Charter is not (cannot afford to be) selective in the students we accept so behavior is no better here than at other schools in my district. Also, the Charters in my district have become dumping grounds for problem schools who have been kicked out of their old school or have an IEP and are a behavior issue. For a small school, we have a HUGE IEP/504 population of over 30%.

    So, yeah, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to Charters. Some are good, some are bad – just like everything else in life.
     
  38. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I'm seeing a lot about unions- I live in NC which is a right to work state, so we don't have unions. Public or charter schools. So that's nothing I'd be losing if I made the switch.
     
  39. otterpop

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    My charter pays less than the local district. It was worth the trade off, for me. I take home about $300 less a month than I did when working for the local school district.
     
  40. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    In Arizona, we have lots of charter schools. While many are poor, some are outstanding. Similar to public schools, there is quite a range of differences between the best and the worst charter schools. I would suggest to get up close and really find out about the charter schools before deciding if it is good or not.
     
  41. waterfall

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    Feb 3, 2015

    I think it totally depends on the area. In my hometown charters are dumping grounds for the "worst" students, and have pretty bad reputations. Here, charters are selective and typically have excellent reputations and huge waiting lists. 3 teachers at my school previously taught at different charters. 2 had horrible experiences and one was so-so. My current teammate is the one who had a "so-so" experience. She said a ton of work was required of the teachers on nights/weekends (various school events and mandatory PD). She continues to be pleasantly surprised by our schedule. However, the population she worked with previously was easier. At the beginning of the year she kept asking why we had to keep students with significant behaviors- apparently at her charter the motto was that they would not keep any student who "drastically changed their program." It took awhile for her to adjust to the fact that we have to take/keep whoever walks through the door. One of the other teachers apparently had to take deductions in her salary for every time she used basic office supplies (even the stapler!)- I certainly hope that isn't typical! Pay tends to be slightly less than public schools if you just have a BA. If you have an MA, it's significantly less because public schools will pay a huge bonus for that while charters typically do not.
     

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