“That way, we are targeting the schools that are struggling the most,” Chester said. “Where we have a school that is failing, I want to see charter operators come and turn those schools around and give those students attending them first preference. That way they can’t cherry-pick students. They would have to take the students in that school and turn it around.”
Chester said most of the state’s charter schools perform well and have become models for turning around troubled school districts.
“We have some that are not succeeding, and I’ve personally closed down four or five of them during my tenure,” Chester said. “But most of them are performing strong, if not excellent.”
Sonia Perez, whose two sons, ages 5 and 11, attend kindergarten and fifth grade at Salem public schools, said she would like them to attend a charter school in the future but worries about the lack of available seats. “It’s about giving them a chance at a better education,” said Perez, 35. “And I don’t think they’re getting that at the regular schools. They’re in bad shape.”