William J. Canary: Public charter schools are valuable to business’ future

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We are encouraged by the progress made toward creating public charter schools, schools that promise to be a vital part of the well-educated workforce that will work in and run Alabama businesses well into the middle of this century.

Last year, thousands of parents, students, and teachers gathered in Montgomery for School Choice Week to urge the Legislature to give parents a choice.

With the Business Council of Alabama’s urging, the Legislature responded and passed the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act. Alabama is now the 43rd state with a charter school law.

Later this month, people from across Alabama again will gather in Montgomery for School Choice Week that is designated Jan. 25-29, to show support for improving the quality of education and expanding access to highly effective schools.

The Alabama celebration of School Choice Week will be 11 a.m. Jan. 26 on the south lawn of the Capitol. We encourage participation in this endeavor that is an important part of Alabama’s goal of growing our role as a leader in a global economy.

Students are expected to enroll next year in inaugural public charter schools that are now being planned, giving parents a say in where their children attend school without having to move.

Public charter schools will be innovative in teaching and managing. Public charter schools will be held accountable and will have safety and health regulations. Students also will take state assessment exams.

If parents and their children find public charter school are good learning environments and foster high academic expectations, then the schools will continue to turn out students that their parents envision.

Right now if you have money or you can afford to move, you might send your children to private school. The BCA believes that all children deserve a chance for a quality education and that all parents should be given the opportunity to seek it.

Charter schools can be an attractive alternative to parents of children who, due to geography, are locked into a situation where they cannot reach their full potential. Public charter schools will be another tool to use as we strive for education excellence and prepare our children for a fulfilling future.

In 2014, the Business Education Alliance of Alabama – an organization that joins education and business – called for pursuing the goal of attaining a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the year 2020.

Right now our graduation rate is 86 percent and increasing. While that is good news, one-third of our students need remedial courses for college and student proficiency of mastery of content is well below average.

The success of Alabama’s business community depends on a public education system that produces graduates with skills required for the 21st century work place.

If Alabama is to continue to attract the aerospace, automobile, and rocket manufacturing facilities that have made us the envy of the rest of the nation, and if we are going to foster growth of our biotech, high-tech, and research industries, we must provide our children the education and skills that those jobs demand.

At the BCA we are dedicated to doing our part because the future is for all of us.

William J. Canary is president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.

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