Charter Flight

Not Content To Piss Off Only The Home-Schoolers, Danehy Mocks The Other Alternative Ed.

MY SON ALEXANDER has this friend who is almost as smart as he. Since his friend's parents probably haven't signed 18 different disclosure forms designed by butt-licking lawyers, I can't use the kid's real name. We'll just call him Allen, a name currently in disfavor among America's child-bearing families.

The two were good buddies at La Cima Middle School, but then Allen's parents decided to move out to Vail. I take Alexander over there every now and then, and while Allen's parents swear that Vail is still in Pima County, I'd like to know why we have to pass through a fruit inspection station before entering the town. I'm not saying it's far away, but Alexander can spend the night at Allen's house, come home the next day, and experience the same thunderstorm twice.

They live in one of those brand-spanking new subdivisions with the quaint-sounding Spanish name of Vista del Piedras de Sepulcro. Unfortunately, that translates to "You Can See Tombstone From Here."

Since there is no high school in Vail yet, the kids out there in North Benson face some tough choices. They can go to Desert View, but the Jaguars stink in football, so why would any kid want to go there? Or they can be bused to Sabino, which wins in football, but stinks in such things as institutional controls, personnel management and spelling. Besides, the bus ride from Vail to Sabino every day is one of the leading causes of hemorrhoids in America. Plus, can you imagine the poor kids getting off the bus at Sabino and walking through the Mercedes-filled student parking lot? Might as well call the bus The Stigma Express.

There is one other option available to Allen this year: He could go to Emily Gray Junior High in the Tanque Verde District, a school so remotely located in far northeast Tucson, it makes Sabino look inner-city. Emily Gray is a throwback, serving grades 7-9 (instead of 6-8). However, to get there on rainy days, you need a buckboard to take you over the swollen crick. Then there's the further problem of the Tanque Verde School District not having a high school, either, mostly because cheap-ass TUSD won't sell TV the land it needs on which to build the school.

Allen's parents, faced with a desperate situation, decided to give up altogether and send the kid to a charter school. Jeez, why not just sell him into involuntary servitude? Maybe he could become an apprentice to a knight errant.

I'm not really sure where Allen goes to school. He told me the name of it, but they all sound the same. They've all either got some buzzword name--Power, Direction, Excel--or their name is an acronym consisting of several buzzwords strung together to impress the weak of will and the right of wing. Then they all end in "Academy."

I told Allen that he's attending Saint 7-11, named for the used-up building in which classes are held. Their main rivals in the highly competitive Charter School Magic Card League are Circle K Tech and Our Lady of Abandoned Liquor Store. Allen swears that the math department at his school is first-rate. (Point of information: The math "department" is located where the Cheetos stand used to be.)

In all seriousness, I like Allen a lot and I hope he gets a great education. He'll need it to keep up with Alexander. But the fact is I'm not a fan of charter schools. It seems like just one more way for the professional Haters to piss on the public schools. But that's a topic for another column.

What I'm concerned about now is what kind of high-school experience these kids get. Not the education, per se (although that is almost certain to be lacking in some areas), but what do these kids do for P.E. or at lunchtime?

"Okay kids, you can go out and play in the parking lot, but remember it's lunchtime at the Famous Sam's next door, so watch for traffic."

And what about sports and extracurricular activities? What would the cheerleaders shout? "Convenience store! Convenience store! Rah! Rah! Rah!"

They can't even have pep rallies, for crying out loud, which is one of the truly important high-school experiences. (Well, I guess the charter school called Project PPEP could have one, but who else?) And don't even get me started on the prom. All seven boys will ask the one girl in the school to the big dance in hopes that her parole officer will let her attend. And even then, she'll have to find a gown that doesn't clash with the electronic ankle bracelet.

The other day I saw this kid who used to play ball at a southside school. I asked him how he was doing and he told me his parents made him transfer to the Luz Academy because it's really strict. How can something called The Loose Academy be strict, I wondered to myself. I don't even want to think about their hygiene classes.

Now they're even putting charter-school commercials on TV. I saw one the other night where these three kids are sitting around looking either bored, stoned, or bored of getting stoned. The commercial goes like this:

Girl No. 1: Yeah, Dude, school sucks.

Dude: Yo, I found one where you don't have to do nothin', there ain't no grades, and the previous owners left a couple kegs behind when they lost their liquor license.

Girl No. 2: Sounds great! But it probably costs a lot.

Dude: Naw, it's free.

Girls 1 & 2: Free?!

Dude: Yeah, free. F-R-E.

Girl No. 1: Aren't there two e's in "free"?

Dude: I don't know. I've only been going there for a couple months.