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Editorial: Let the competition begin

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It now looks as though plans will go forward to open the Merrick Academy-Queens Charter Public School. The State University of New York has backed the charter for the proposed Merrick Academy.

We believe that the academy and charter schools in general will offer low- and middle-income families the opportunity to give their children the kind of quality education that in the past was only available to wealthier families.

The charter schools will also give people on the grass roots level a much greater voice in developing educational priorities for their children.

The charter schools will be required to meet basic educational standards. Children who attend these schools will take part in citywide and statewide testing in math and reading. Students enrolled in high school programs will have to pass Regents exams. But beyond that, each school will be free to set educational priorities and put its own unique stamp on the development of the children entrusted to their care.

Despite a sound plan and the backing of prominent community leaders, earlier this year, the Board of Regents rejected the charter on the specious grounds that the school did not enjoy the support of the community. Nonsense. The real test of community interest will come when the school is open for enrollment. If no one signs up, the community isn't interested. If there's a waiting list three years long (that's our guess), then community support can be said to be overwhelming.

Under the law that allows for the creation of 100 charter schools, the SUNY board and the Board of Regents are each responsible for the approval of 50 schools. So far, the SUNY board has received 100 applications and the Regents have received 18.

It would appear that the Board of Regents dosen't like the concept of charter schools. They are not alone. Many people who have spent their lives working within the public school system are skeptical and, in some cases, resentful of the charter schools. They argue that these schools will siphon off money from the public school system. There's some truth to that. But it is also true that the charter schools will create important competition in the city's school system. We believe that in the end all students will benefit, including those who will continue to attend traditional public schools. Time will tell.

Cyber ciphers

The Queens district sttorney reportedly is looking into allegations that School District 29 has spent thousands of dollars on computers that are inadequate and substandard. The computers were to be used to equip six computer labs.

Officials say the computers are nearly useless. They cannot be used to teach children word processing and fundamentals of computing and they cannot be used to access the Internet.

Did a contractor dump out-of-date computers on the district with the hope that no one will notice? Is there someone at the community school board checking to make sure that the children are getting what you pay for?

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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