"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Is Charter School Expansion REALLY the Answer to Public Education's Woes?

Missourians are not the only ones concerned about the educational reforms set forth by Arne Duncan and state legislators. A citizen group in Seattle has been following these reforms very closely and this is a blog you should read to understand the charter school push by some state legislatures.

Seattle Education 2010 is a wealth of information and should be followed if you are interested in the evolution of public education being provided by private investors. If this is the course the Missouri legislature is going to pursue, it is imperative citizens understand how charters are funded and who is in charge of each charter organization. If the information from Seattle Education 2010 is correct, Missourians should be asking these questions of Missouri legislators as the plan "Educated Citizenry 2020" calls for the growth of charter schools in the state:

  • Who is funding the charter schools?
  • Are any of the charters receiving money from the Broad or Gates Foundation?
  • Does the Legislature support monetary reward for parent signatures to provoke a "Trigger" option?
  • Does this move to charters create more local control?
  • Does this move to charters create more parental involvement?
  • Will the charters be under the same common core standards as traditional public schools?
  • Will the charters be staffed with inexperienced teachers?
  • Do current Board of Education members have ties to charter school companies?
  • Do any legislators have vested interests or contributions from charter school interests?

We believe these questions need to be asked and answered before public support can be given to the reforms mentioned in the current educational plan. When charters were first instituted, they were truly innovative. This is a partial description of charter schools from the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society:

Charter schools were founded to provide an alternative vision for schooling, to serve a special target population of students, or to gain flexibility and autonomy from local school districts. Charter developers maintained that charter schools could accomplish educational goals more effectively than traditional schools, if they were given the opportunity to operate free from restrictive regulations and had stable financing that could be tied directly to the attainment of educational goals. Waivers were requested for state and local testing mechanisms, personnel regulations, or state and local curriculum mandates; however, regulations for discrimination, health, or safety of children could not be waived.

Note the highlighted sentence in the charter school description. These waivers were what created the innovation in charter schools and set them apart from traditional public schools. However, with the common core standards implemented in traditional public AND charter schools, the only reasons to pursue the charter school route would be to diminish the teacher unions and put the decision making in the hands of private investors. Real reform of educational goals will not be accomplished by moving students from one building to another. The standards and testing and curriculum will stay the same if a student stays in a public traditional school or attends a charter.

I hope our legislators look closer at the plan they are expecting the citizens to accept. The expansion of charters does not address the underlying problems in public education today. If the curriculum is flawed and out of the hands of the state to develop and institute, it doesn't matter where a child is placed. If the mandates are flawed and not locally controlled, the placement of students is irrelevant.

We share the same concerns as the group in Seattle. Who is funding the charters and why is there such a move toward the privatization of schools that operate under the same mandates as the traditional public schools? Is this really a choice for better education or just moving the money around from one entity to another?

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