The tangible cost of charter schools

To the editor:

The College and Career Center at Taconic High School is a vital resource for our high school students. Equipped with a dozen computers on which students explore potential careers, investigate opportunities for military service, or narrow down their choices of a four-year college, the center is run by a career counseling specialist.

Granted, I teach 11th and 12th grades at Taconic so I am biased. Even so, the director holds seminars for students which focus on the complex college application process, he hosts ex-Taconic students in roundtable discussions that center on finding work after high school, and he offers essential assistance with writing resumes. He even offers critical talks on how to boost standardized test scores and how to interpret the results.

Undeniably, the College and Career Center delivers indispensable guidance to our young people as they transition from one part of their lives to the next. Two years ago, one of my own students discovered the Air Force while sifting through information in the center. She spent countless hours researching specific careers, weighing difficult choices, talking to people and finally making contact with a recruiter. Today, she is in the Air Force beginning a rewarding career in security as she proudly serves our country.


Sadly, I guess all good things must come to an end. The College and Career Center at Taconic closed this year due to budgetary limitations. Remarkably, its closing coincided with Pittsfield spending over $2.5 million to educate some of its students in out-of-district charter schools. We might agree that choice is nice, but when limited financial recourses are divided and spread thin among many different schools, high quality programs like the College and Career Center at Taconic cannot be sustained. Ultimately, superior programs at all schools suffer and our valued students lose out. It's that simple.

Given this, I am puzzled by the state director of Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc., Keri Rodriguez Lorenzo, who claims that they "organize families across the commonwealth who are desperate for a better education." She should know that excellence is a by-product of connection, not fragmentation.

It goes without saying that we need to do what is best for our young people. We need to vote "no" in November with regard to the ballot initiative lifting the cap on charter schools. Lifting the cap would bring about further fragmentation among our schools, and would scatter our limited funds even more widely.

Steve Smith, Pittsfield