Delaware Charter Schools: Weighing the Educational and Taxpayer Pros and Cons
The number of charter schools in the state has increased. So the debate about the effectiveness of traditional public schools versus charters continues.
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Four years ago, Kurfuerst was in a quandary. Her son, Alex, was finishing up his middle school years, and she had serious concerns about him attending Dickinson, the nearest district high school. She was afraid he would “get lost in the shuffle.”
Dickinson isn’t considered a top-performing high school. During the 2011-12 school year (the most recent data available), the Red Clay district school performed below or just met state averages in reading, math and science. In that same year, 40 percent of Dickinson’s students were suspended or expelled (compared to only 15 percent statewide), prompting parental anxiety about school safety.
Kurfuerst ultimately enrolled Alex at Delaware Military Academy, one of three charter schools authorized by Red Clay.
“My son has four years to do high school,” she says. “I can’t put him in a place that I don’t believe is providing the right education for him. [In Delaware,] we don’t have the caliber of education at the high school level that a lot of people expect. In lieu of having that, you put your kids where you think they’re going to have the best education.”
Buckley made a different choice. She’d long assumed that her elementary-aged children would eventually attend nearby Newark Charter School, until she became concerned about the school’s more affluent demographics and its effect on neighboring district schools.
“We just felt that wasn’t the way we wanted to interact with our community, to take advantage of a public service that wasn’t available to everyone, and that by its own existence was making the [district schools] available to everyone worse, causing them greater challenges,” she says.
Buckley’s youngest son began kindergarten at Downes Elementary School in August 2013, where he’s participated in a Mandarin Chinese immersion program, while her other two children attend NCCL, a private school in Newark.