Let's be clear. Charters are no panecea for educational ills. But they are not a death knell to public education either.
Go on. Take the money and run.
The trick is to think them through, deal with the problematics, and write a bill (for the special session, one hopes) that will increase educational opportunity in areas of persistant poverty and educational disadvantage. Such a bill might pass constitutional scrutiny by contributing to educational equity wherever it is presently lacking - thus supporting an efficient system of schools throughout the state.
It now appears that Mountjoy and Governor Steve Beshear will be providing the necessary leadership to get these issues clarified. But ultimatley, it will fall to the General Assembly to decide the particulars.
This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Gov. Beshear to discuss
Kentucky’s lack of charter schools
with U.S. ed secretary
Eligibility for some federal stimulus
funds may be at stake
Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will meet this weekend to discuss Kentucky’s lack of charter schools and Duncan’s warning that states without those institutions may not qualify for part of $4.4 billion in stimulus funds designated for education innovation.
In a Monday conference call with education reporters, Duncan said the 10 states – including Kentucky – without charter schools “put themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the largest pool of dollars states have ever had access to. We want to invest in states that push a reform agenda.”
State Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy called Duncan’s remarks “a concern” during a Frankfort meeting Thursday with the Kentucky Board of Education and the 3KT organization (Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.)
“We’re working to make sure we are not penalized,” Mountjoy said. “If they were going to make (charter schools) a prerequisite or going to give great weight to this, it would have been very helpful for those states without charter schools to know about it more than two weeks before they planned to release the first draft of the RFP (Request for Proposals).”
To be fair to President Obama, some observers have argued that the issue deserved discussion in Kentucky at least since September 9, 2008 when it was clear that both presidential candidates would push charters in their education platforms.
To be fair to Mountjoy, how many times can you count on a politician to keep campaign promises?
Mountjoy told KSBA that Governor Beshear "will have several points to make to Duncan" when they meet with the nation’s governors in North Carolina this weekend.
“Kentucky does not have official charter schools, but we’ve had school councils since 1991. School councils are empowered to make many decisions dealing with budget, staff, instructional materials – all things the way charter schools generally operate,” she said.
Another point is that Kentucky schools on track for academic targets already may be freed from many regulations, according to Mountjoy, a former Daviess county school board member and state board of education chairwoman.
“The state board has a regulation in place that allows any school and district that is meeting its achievement goals to ask and receive a waiver from any regulation on the books, except those required by federal statute and those associated with health and safety and assessment and accountability,” she said.
“We could make the argument that we are the original charter school state, because we have all of these things in place,” Mountjoy said.
Nice try. But as a former Kentucky principal, who had a school council that wanted to consider (and approached the state for) charter status a long time ago, and who once approached the state board for a policy waiver, while meeting all of our KIRIS/CATS targets - well, that was simply not my experience.
Free steak dinner for any sitting Kentucky Governor, who can convince Arne Duncan that Kentucky already meets the requirements for charter schools. I'm buyin'.
Kentucky’s number of small school districts will be another factor Mountjoy said the governor will cite in his meeting with Duncan.
“Quite frankly, if Kentucky’s average school district size is around 2,000 students, that is a whole different environment when you think about people coming in and trying to organize a charter school with that few students in one location,” she said.
Quite right. There are going to be issues and limitations. Charters must have oversight and be accountable for improved student achievement results. Let's think it through.