Mark Hershey | Smith Should Rethink Charter Stance

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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Anticipating an uplifting event, I attended the Mission View Charter School graduation last week at the Pasadena Convention Center and watched 208 very proud and excited students graduate in front of a full house of parents, family, friends and teachers. These students had a myriad of positive reasons why this charter school worked for them. 

Three of the graduation speakers told of their personal hardships that brought them to this charter school. These students’ real-life experiences included suicidal ideation, homelessness, being outcasts at their public school, victimization of bullying, physical attacks, poor grades, graduation credit shortages and existing in broken homes. 

I personally know of other students who were forced to work and support their family and younger siblings, who have been victims of gang violence, suffered the loss of a parent, lived in an atmosphere of drug addiction, experienced social anxiety, and bore the responsibility of youthful, unplanned pregnancies. Such stressful events are extremely difficult at any age and certainly even harder when one is but a high school teenager. 

These students were decisively failing at their public school and if not for the opportunity of the Mission View Charter School, nearly all of them would not have graduated with a high school diploma. At this charter school, the teachers, counselors and administration are totally committed to these students and assist them throughout their learning experiences. 

The emotions ran high among the school staff, but that was massively overshadowed by the pride and joy of the family members of these graduates. Some graduates were the first members of their family to graduate from high school. Many of them are furthering their education in college or career technical school. Four graduates received $500 scholarships at the ceremony. 

It was quite an eventful and incredibly emotional night. 

Our Assemblywoman Christy Smith has authored a bill that begins the elimination of charter schools in California. This bill has already passed in the Assembly and is on its way to the state Senate. It is extremely unfortunate that she was not in attendance of this graduation. However, there are still many more charter school graduations coming up and not too far from Santa Clarita that she can, and should, attend. 

The price for entry to attend is free but the value of full-view witnessing of the positive benefit to our youth, thus our society, is priceless. There is everything to gain by seeing firsthand the value of the charter school effect on our young people who otherwise simply fall between the cracks; the same youth the public school system and unions bemoan using as the excuse to pass proposition upon proposition for more money from taxpayers — and still remain ineffective. For Smith’s attending, I am sure the schools would provide the dates and times of their graduations and certainly would ensure a good seat for our state elected members such as Assemblywoman Christy Smith. 

There are many types of charter schools and they serve a number of various student needs. A broad stroke of legislation against charter schools will, without doubt, cause disaster for many students. We should all hope that Assemblywoman Smith is not (1) so beholden to the influential and generous political donations from the teachers’ unions and (2) that she does not have a frozen, biased anger toward charter schools based on her close affiliation with our local school boards, and that she will immediately reconsider her bill. 

Santa Clarita Valley public schools are doing an impressive job for the vast majority of our children, but let’s not punish the kids who have and do experience horrendous hardships by eliminating the should-be-accessible option of charter schools. 

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, you have made a tragic mistake with your Assembly bill. It’s not too late to rectify the callousness.

Mark Hershey
Santa Clarita

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