by David Safier
Raena Janes, who founded the La Paloma Academy charter schools, has a Q&A in today's business section. Naturally, she sings the praises of her schools. What's her secret? The school emphasizes character. "We demand that our students are respectful and caring."
Sounds good, right? Why can't school districts do that? The answer is, they can try, but there's one thing they can't do. According to Janes,
"[W]e do expel quite a few kids a year that don’t want to be a part of that program."
Ah. If you can be selective — charter schools can expel kids virtually at will with little or no cause — you can end up with exactly the student body you want, unlike the come-one-come-all neighborhood schools. And where do you think the La Paloma undesirables end up? You guessed it. Back at their neighborhood school, of course, often in the middle of the year. If the child returns after one hundred days, the district school won't get any state money for the rest of the year. La Paloma keeps it all.
Julian Vasquez Heilig, an education prof at University of Texas at Austin, says, "School Choice means Schools Choose." That about says it. I'll give Janes some credit. Unlike the heads of BASIS and Great Hearts charters, she owns up to her selectivity.