Letters to the Editor

From the issue of September 21, 2000

Just as a new school year was about to begin, parents, teachers, and administrators at the Liberty City Charter School had to read about gossip and innuendo in an article with headlines like this: “Although the Liberty City School Charter School helped make Jeb Bush governor, four years on it's barely passing.” They did not get the opportunity to read about the great strides their school has made over the past four years, strides that include doubling the number of students who were able to pass the FCAT reading test in their last fourth-grade class, and increasing the fifth-graders' pass rate of the FCAT math test by 30 percent. Liberty City Charter School has enjoyed a high parent-satisfaction rate and has a high student-retention rate. The school has grown from 50 to 250 in four years based on parental choice -- not bureaucratic student placement. Mr. Kissell failed to include anything that might edify the families and hard-working teachers at this growing community school.

In other words the article focused on politics and personalities rather than on education and children. So much of what it failed to report is exactly what today's education debate also fails to address: children. As a classroom teacher, I reminded myself every day that the reason I had a job was because of parents' hard-earned tax dollars and because of their children's learning needs. Politics, power, and money were not part of my daily lesson plans or learning objectives.

Jeb Bush and his charter school cofounders, like many others, believe entrepreneurial efforts in public education can help children. Liberty City Charter School is no different from any other new school, new business, or new idea: They are never perfect right out of the box. It takes time for any new venture to gain the right balance of consistency and flexibility to achieve greatness. Few disagree that we must improve Florida's public education system, which has been around long enough to achieve that balance. Public charter schools in Florida have not even had five years to establish themselves.

Liberty City Charter School, and other charter and district-run public schools, all deserve a chance to succeed. Adversarial school boards, opponents of the A+ Plan, teachers unions, political opponents, and slanderous, sensational media serve only to harm those they pretend to protect: the children. I believe our children deserve a future in which their educational communities work together primarily for the good of the learner, not the system. Let's stop using children to fight political and personal battles.

Alex Penn Williams

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