Not a ‘charter versus district’ issue: A discussion with several leaders of local charter schools

Not a ‘charter versus district’ issue: A discussion with several leaders of local charter schools

Story Contributed by Christopher Murphy, Ed.D


Families across the country often turn the charter public schools as the best educational option for their children, especially in underserved school districts like those in major urban cities.

On September 18, 2018, National Public Radio’s St. Louis on the Air featured a conversation between charter school leaders about their educational models, successes, and how they benefit local communities in which they serve.

Featured in the conversation was Engin Blackstone, Concept Schools Regional Superintendent of Gateway Science Academy of St. Louis (GSA).  Blackstone has serves as a Board Member of the Missouri Public Charter School Association. 

While emphasizing the high-quality STEM-focused curriculum and college-preparatory education GSA offers, Blackstone addressed common misconceptions of charter schools in general, such as the belief that charter public schools are selective or tuition-based. As Blackstone stressed, they are neither:

“Charter schools are public schools; we do not have any specific enrollment criteria. The students we have are on all spectrums,” he said. “Our goal is to provide and meet the needs (of all students) at their own level.” 

Because charter public schools are sponsored by institutions such as universities or community-based organizations, they are held to more rigorous standards than traditional districts. Blackstone countered the concerns about a lack of charter school accountability emphasizing that “Accountability is a big thing.” 

Blackstone’s colleague, Christie Huck, Executive Director of City Garden Montessori Charter School, responded to concerns that charter schools pull away kids or steal funding from local traditional districts. The matter shouldn’t be a “charter versus district” issue. Huck continued, saying: 

“I think we get caught up in this either/or scarcity mindset. We really need to broaden our thinking and conviction to really try to make sure all kids, and particularly our most vulnerable children, have access to great education. Charter schools are one way to do that.”