If Rodney Hassler is right, charter schools stand to increase the accountability of the Scotland County School System in ways not thought possible under the current school funding formula.
With a 30-year career in education, Hassler is currently running for one the three seats on the Board of Education representing the Stewartsville Township.
Hassler believes that charter schools — labeled a grave threat to public education by some — can be a “very good thing” for public schools in the county.
Reacting to comments made last week by school board member Terence Williams and candidate Pat Gates at a Democratic Women’s. The event was limited to Democratic candidates. While school board races are nonpartisan, Hassler is a registered Republican.
Hassler said that his opponents’ comments that charter schools “threaten to end public education as we know it” are part of a “fear tactic” aimed at scaring people away from school choice.
According to Hassler, charter schools will give parents alternatives to the school system, creating healthy competition.
“Can Scotland County schools muster what needs to be done to keep students coming to them?” asked Hassler.
Because of the county’s novel school funding formula, funding for the school system is maintained at a certain level. That reality, says Hassler, has “limited the school system’s accountability to students and parents.”
If parents choose charter schools over the county’s regular public schools, enrollment will continue its current pattern of decline as will state funding based on average daily enrollment.
“The school floor also includes enrollment as a variable, meaning that the school system must now, for the first time, consider its audience.
“(The school system) always got its allowance, whether it did its homework or not,” Hassler said. “Now they have to come out of their castle and cross the moat. The walks are being broken down and they can no longer continue to park in their special spaces and never really touch the people that they deal with.”
The charter schools option also puts the school board in a predicament politically, according to Hassler. Hassler believes that opposing school choice, from a political standpoint, is a non starter.
“How can you be against a parent’s right to choose for their child?” Hassler said.
While Hassler says that he personally opposes “anything that could take away local students for the local school system” he thinks that charter schools are an “unfortunate reality because many school systems are not giving their audience what they want.”
During his comments to the Scotland County Democratic Women, Williams speculated that those starting charter schools may not be capable of providing a proper education.
Calling the charter schools model a “direct attack on public schools” Williams said that the move toward “neighborhood schools” would represent a step back in time for the school system.
Both Gates and Williams also targeted tax breaks for charter schooling, home schooling and private schooling, including school vouchers.
Gates said that vouchers threaten to “dismantle the public school system as we know it.”
Current school board member Darwin Williams and Dr. Jeff Byrd, both representing the Stewartsville Township, did not return calls from the Exchange by press time.