EDITORIAL: Ketchikan Daily News, September 24, 2004
(this article is not available elsewhere on the Internet)

Nope, Not Here

The headlines about California charter schools collapsing were dire. New York Times, Sept. 17: "Collapse of 60 Charter Schools Leaves Californians Scrambling."

The story was stark: Six thousand students had no school to attend, and some of their records-immunization records as well as academic-were scattered about the state in abandoned storefronts after the disintegration of the California Charter Academy

"The businessman who used $100 million in state financing to build an empire of 60 mostly storefront schools had simply abandoned his headquarters as bankruptcy loomed, refusing to take phone calls," wrote Sam Dillon in the New York Times article.

The gory details were spelled out in the news report, possibly intended to serve as a cautionary tale about potential charter-school problems. It serves as a study in contrasts for Ketchikan.

Small-town Americans often are accused of thinking, "It couldn't happen here" of any number of problems that we read about elsewhere. We are told we are naive for such beliefs-every small town is just another place where human beings live out their lives. The bad things that happen to good people worldwide certainly can happen here, and often do.

While that's all true, this particular bad thing couldn't happen here. Here, as in California, we debate our school-related issues furiously. We feel very strongly about how our children are being educated. And, as in California, we have charter schools. But what appears to have happened in the case of the California Charter Academy couldn't happen in Ketchikan today.

Our charter schools sprang from the concerns of parents, teachers, and community members who felt that the other public-school choices here weren't getting the job done for their children. So they took control and came up with a plan. In both cases, the plans are hands-on and require the constant attention and contribution from the communities they serve. These schools didn't come about as the result of throwing money at a businessman to solve a community problem that the community was too busy to solve itself.

We're all in favor of private business taking the lead in communities; usually, businesses figure out how to do things in ways that will work. But education is a matter of the heart, not just the pocketbook, and Ketchikan-including our businesspeople-has always taken the needs of our children to heart. We've always given thought and elbow grease as well as money when it comes to our kids.

Yes, we do have our school problems. But this particular problem isn't one that's likely to strike Ketchikan anytime soon-not with all the people who are putting their hearts into our community's charter schools.

Come to think of it, the same love, care, and commitment go into all of Ketchikan's schools-charter, "regular,' or private. Every once in a while, amid the bickering, it might be useful to recall that, however we think we ought to get there, we all have the same destination in mind for our educational system, and most of us are working actively to get there.

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