New America can have my money |

New America can have my money

Tamara Miller
Vail CO, Colorado

Eagle County is finally getting a charter school that aims to do what charter schools are supposed to do: help kids who really need the help.

I don’t care what you think about the New America School and who it will serve. I feel a lot better knowing my taxes will be going to help immigrant kids learn English instead of just helping fund white flight.

I’m sure the education at Stone Creek and the Eagle County Charter Academy is great. But I’d much rather see the public money used to fund these schools go back to the main public schools. Or to create another New America School.

If parents want a private school experience for their kids, they can pay for it themselves.

The intent of charter schools has seemed all but lost in Eagle County. In most parts of the country, charter schools serve a greater number of minority and disadvantaged students than traditional public schools. Nationally, there are slightly more Hispanic students in charter schools than in traditional schools, and far more African-American students in charter schools than the traditional equivalent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Kids from low-income families outnumber those from well-off ones in most charter schools. According to the Department of Education, about 54 percent of charter school students are eligible for free and reduced lunches. In traditional schools, that number is about 46 percent.

To be fair, minority and low-income students are just as eligible to attend Stone Creek and the charter academy. Stone Creek founders even put a call out for Hispanic students before they opened last school year.

No such luck.

As such, neither school are as diverse as the traditional schools. Not even close. About 4 percent of the charter academy’s 289 students received a discounted lunch, according to the school’s Web site. The state reports that about 5 percent of the school’s enrollment are Hispanic students.

Meanwhile, at Edwards Elementary ” across town from the charter academy ” only 39 percent of the kids are fluent in English. Most of the kids who aren’t fluent are Hispanic.

The New America School aims to make these kids proficient in English and to help them earn a high school diploma. Considering the number of non-English-speakers in our county, and how much our economy depends on them, I can’t think of a better way to invest some public school dollars.

It will be up to those students and their parents to make the commitment to get to the school in Gypsum. School Principal Kathy Brendza is expecting as many as 150 kids when the school opens next month. Other New America schools across the state have even larger student enrollments than that.

Historically, disadvantaged kids are the students least likely to get the education they need in a traditional public school. They are the ones who stand to gain the most from a more creative and inventive learning environment.

That’s why I’m more than happy about having some of my taxes thrown New America’s way.

Opinion/Projects Editor Tamara Miller can be reached at 748-2936, or

Support Local Journalism