GUEST VIEW: With liberty in education for all


By Daily News • Last Updated 10:03 am on Thursday, January 26, 2012

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible,  with liberty and justice for all.” — The Pledge of Allegiance

By Victoria Simon

Threshold Academy principal

Victoria Simon

The flag that flies proudly outside of every public school in Michigan reminds us that in the United States all students have the opportunity for a free and appropriate public education. The flag reminds us of our liberty which includes the freedom to choose the most appropriate public education for our child including traditional public schools or charter schools. We also have the right to reject a free public education and choose to pay for private or parochial (religion-sponsored) school or home-school.

Our area offers excellent local public schools where most of our kindergarten through 12th grade students are educated. There are several parochial schools for families choosing to pay tuition who want a faith-based education with discipline and a solid curriculum. The Montcalm County area also has two charter schools serving the area: Threshold Academy in Orleans and Grattan Academy in Grattan and Greenville. Charter schools are important because they allow families who want a public education to have the freedom to choose.

For students whose needs do not match the instruction in their local public school and who cannot afford private school tuition, there is the option of enrolling in a charter school. Charter schools are open to all students and can not charge tuition.

Threshold Academy in Orleans has free busing to kindergarten through fifth grade students in the northern half of Ionia County and southern half of Montcalm County. Students who attend Threshold benefit from a nurturing educational program.

Grattan Academy serves kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Belding area who desire a rigorous academic curriculum and traditional discipline. Character education is the foundation for traditional discipline practices and citizenship development. Discipline is provided through firm, fair and consistent practices. Students are required to demonstrate mastery of Grade Level Competencies for that grade level to be promoted to the next grade level.

Charter schools are public school academies which are schools of choice. They may not charge tuition, and must serve anyone who applies to attend within the limits of their maximum enrollment; that is, they may not screen out students based on race, religion, sex or test scores. Charter school teachers must be state of Michigan certified and highly qualified. Charter school students are assessed annually as part of the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP). Charter schools cannot be religiously affiliated.

Charter schools are not better — they are different, so there are options for families. As most consumers know, competition increases quality, variety and value. When there is only one cable company or restaurant, prices go up and service goes down. If there is only one school system and decisions go through many layers before change happens, then the quality of education may decrease.

Charter schools are able to reform quicker than traditional schools. Everyone in the building, including the staff, is at the school by choice. All employees must work hard and do what is best for the students or they do not stay at the school.

Charter schools tend to have a strong sense of purpose in the role they serve in the community. Charter schools often have a high adult-child ratio. Charter schools follow the same mandates as all public schools but are also held accountable by their communities — if no one chooses to attend, the school will not survive.

Montcalm County is filled with dedicated public school professionals in Greenville, Carson City-Crystal, Central Montcalm, Montabella, Lakeview, Tri County and Vestaburg which is where most students attend school.

Threshold Academy and Grattan Academy are unique options that fit the needs of some students. Although the academies are not for every student you should be proud your community offers choices to fit the needs of all students. This is National School Choice Week (www.schoolchoiceweek.com/home), which is a time to recognize how fortunate we are with choice in education. We live in a country with liberty and in Michigan that includes the freedom to choose the best public school education for our children available through the local public school system or area public school academies (charter schools) allowing “Liberty in Education for All.”

To learn more, the state of Michigan’s definition of charter schools is here:

www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-6530_30334_40088—-,00.html

To learn more about charter schools in Michigan, go to www.charterschools.org which is the Michigan Association of Public School Academies and www.cmucso.org/, which is The Center for Charter Schools at CMU.

For more historical info check out these links!

Historical Timeline Of Public Education In The US

Michigan K-12 Education Timeline

American Educational History: A Hypertext Timeline

Victoria Simon is principal of Threshold Academy.

The opinions expressed in the Guest View do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Daily News.

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