Yesterday, we had a long debate about what do do about charter schools in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that the ones we have are not constitutional. It is a long watch but worth watching to see civil, bipartisan agreement and disagreement about the results of an initiative that the people voted for. You can find it via TVW on line.
Many years ago, before I was ever expecting to serve in elected office, my children were in an excellent private school. It was affordable because I was on staff as first a program development /grant writer and then as an art teacher. During that time my fellow parents were active in the movement to have some of their tax dollars offset the cost of the education they chose for their children. There were many aspects of that educational environment that I wished were more common in the public system. There was a longitudinal study to evaluate the long term effectiveness of the experience for the children, but at a certain point, my family made the choice for public education. The point is that I am keenly aware of and share the passion to seek the very best for one's children.
Yesterday I voted in the minority on the Charter school bill. I could speak all day about why but it boiled down to this:
- Our paramount duty is to the entire public school system, and we haven't done that job. The fact that we technically don't have to identify a funding source for the other thousands of kid's education until next year doesn't justify fixing the choice of the parents of around 1000 kids before we do that. Parents made that choice when the legal questions were still pending.
- There is good reason to think that the bill passed yesterday is no more constitutional than the initiative was and will only expand our problem.
- All of the things that people valued about the charter schools are available through some public schools. The question is, why not all? The answer is our lack of funding and our constant changing of the requirements and testing standards.
- Charter schools are still without accountability for their use of public dollars. Their results are no better than adequately-funded public schools and the cost when done badly is too much both for the kids and the taxpayers.
My goal to to ensure adequate funding and policy support for innovative schools and high standards and access for ALL of our children. Hearing the passion from my colleagues yesterday was moving. Any thoughts of ulterior motives were gone. But I hope that passion to "save" the few will lead to passion to provide excellence for the many. We are not there yet.