Thursday, April 17, 2014

SB573 - Statewide Charter Schools


School Choice is an interesting concept that can mean many things to many people.  For some, it means establishing a system of Charter Schools in order to provide choice to parents when confronted with failing neighborhood public schools.  For some it means establishing a monetary system by which parents can use their tax dollars for home school, private school or other means of education other than failing public schools.

At first, I thought charter schools were the way to go.  In fact, my mother and I both taught at Independence Charter Middle School in Oklahoma City, the school established by our current Superintendent of Public Schools - Janet Barresi.

Today I read Oklahoma Education Truths blog regarding SB573 - a bill authored by Senator Clark Jolley and Representative Lee Denney.  Here is the link to the bill.

From the blog by way of COSSA: 
SB 573 by Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) creates a statewide Public Charter School Commission and grants the Commission authority to authorize and oversee theestablishment of charter schools in any school district in the state.  This bill circumvents the authority of the locally elected board from exercising local control of the education of the children in your community. This bill is eligible for a House floor vote once it is placed on the agenda which could be anytime.  Title is on the billPlease contact your Representative immediately and ask them to vote NO on SB 573!
Here are my concerns with such a bill - and with the charter school movement itself:
  1. Charter schools take public money yet school board members are chosen from inside the school community with one member of the community at large.  This produces a situation in which taxpayers pay for the school but then have absolutely no say - through a seat on the board - as to how they are run.
  2. Establishing schools in such a way can allow the influx of non-American and other influences as we've seen and are seeing with the Gulen Charter Schools movement in Oklahoma and the rest of the nation.  This is not healthy - supplying public money to a school that has ties to Islam.  It would be the same for a Communist school or any other school utilizing anti-American-leaning curricula or services supported by tax dollars.
  3. This particular bill would create another new commission.  My GOODNESS!  How many Boards and Commissions can we have in Oklahoma?  It's into the 700's by the way.  When we allow unelected board members set policy and procedure for programs and offices paid for with tax dollars we are not utilizing democratic principles.  This is taxation without representation in the highest form.  This is a centralization of government not in any way supported by the principles on which this country was founded.  Enough with the boards and commissions.  This is why we have a State Department of Education.  This is why we opposed and will continue to oppose the Educational Quality and Accountability Board (another of Senator Jolley's bills)
  4. Until you remove Common Core from the state, it doesn't matter what Charter school you attend - the Accountability measures our state has put into place will force every student under Common Core for testing.  What choice is there in education with ANY taxpayer supported school.
  5. Why take money away from public schools to provide CHOICE in the first place?  It makes no sense. Just let public schools have public money.  Then, institute 'open enrollment' across the state and let parents enroll their kids wherever they would like.  Sure some schools would have waiting lists and not all parents would get their first choice, but it would be a start.  Competition can and will create greatness - certainly we've seen that notion played out historically across a wide range of programs. 
I'm not a charter school proponent anymore, but I'm torn as to what to do on the issue and I'm still growing, learning and studying the issue.  I like the idea of Education Savings Accounts like Arizona has, but I also believe in public schools.

Sadly, there is enough blame to go around in the public school arena.  We simply need to sit down - unemotionally - sort them out and work toward a solution.  All I know is that micromanaging schools to death in the name of accountability is simply stupid and clearly not favoring those that work in the schools (teachers), those who pay for the schools (parents) and those attempting to gain an education (students).  If public schools were baseball, we'd be out.