With the Brookhaven Innovation Academy opening the fall of 2016-2017, most likely taking some of the students who attend elementary schools in the Cross Keys cluster with them, I have begun thinking about charter schools and traditional public schools.

I think I am at a time in my career and my own thinking where I can more clearly see the positive opportunities that charter schools can bring to a school district: educational innovation, less bureaucracy, higher pay (often), and higher performing students (often).

Many times, charter schools do draw the top performers (or at least the most motivated parents of students) from the local traditional public schools, but I do think their success can also be correlated to other factors.

But that’s not what this article is about.

I’m here to argue in favor of the local public schools. I have taught for four years in Gwinnett and I am in my first year of teaching in DeKalb County. Needless to say, things are quite different – in both positive and negative ways.

I know that there are more than 20 charter schools and magnet schools in DeKalb, and 1 of them, DeKalb School of the Arts, is in the top 10 in the state (according to US News rankings). But what about the other schools?

Many proponents tout charter schools as the panacea to the woes of public education, but it only offers an opportunity for a few lucky students who happen to live in the attendance zone or who happen to win the school lottery.

I’m definitely not saying that we should try to stop charter schools. Please keep trying to offer more opportunities for our kids. Charter schools can often change the status quo much quicker than a huge district can. However, there are still students who attend these other schools, and we can’t simply forget them whenever a new charter school pops up in our neighborhood.

My fear is that, many times, when a charter school arrives on the scene, some of the biggest advocates for public education throw all their energies into the charter school, depleting the community of some of the most involved parents and community members.

I want to remind our communities (especially the one I live and teach in – the Cross Keys/Buford Highway community) to not forget the students and faculty who remain in the local public school. We still need your advocacy and support – both with your time and your generosity.

We still need highly qualified, gifted teachers who care about making a difference in kids’ lives to seek positions at the local traditional schools.

We still need inspiring men and women to lead our local traditional schools as administrators and principals.

And we still need gifted and motivated students to attend our local traditional schools.

Let’s not forget that – while improving educational opportunities in the form of charter schools is important – improved educational opportunities for all students should be the end goal. And that means continuing to focus on the local schools.