Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is Kentucky in for a Rude Awakening on Charters?

For months now, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been warning states without charter school laws that they will be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to sharing in $4 billion + in federal grant funds. But what exactly does that mean?

Charter school advocates seem to think states like Kentucky could be shut out of funding.

But early guidelines from the US Office of Education indicate charter-shunning states will be penalized, but not necessarily shut out.

The single disqualifying factor that Duncan says could bar states from receiving any funds is in the area of using student achievement data to evaluate teachers. With Kentucky poised to redesign its assessment system, it's a fair guess that Kentucky will qualify for something. But another way the feds are likely to penalize charterless states is by reducing the share of the funds for which they would otherwise qualify.

This from ABC News:

Are Charters Schools a Price of Entry to Reform?

States wondering if they'll have to
adopt charter schools
to qualify for federal money

Eleven states have said no to charter schools, one of the education reforms President Barack Obama backs. They may soon be paying a penalty for that choice.

As states compete for more than $4 billion in federal education grants, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has made it clear that those willing to embrace charter schools and other favored innovations will get preference. Those who refuse may end up shut out of the money.

The strong-arm tactics put politicians in a tough spot. Many teachers' union members strongly oppose charter schools, most of which use non-union teachers. And school districts themselves don't like giving up resources to the schools, which get government dollars but operate independently from the local school board.

But boosters, the president and Duncan among them, think they are key to turning around failing schools in part because charter operators have a big motivation for boosting student achievement. If kids don't do well, the schools can be shut down.

Charter schools can also keep kids in school longer, offer more one-on-one attention and try different ways of teaching and learning.

Duncan recently wrote in an opinion piece that states with charter school limits will decrease their odds of getting the grants — dubbed the Race to the Top competition by the administration. He has proposed a rating system to separate the winners from the losers; not every state will get a share of the money.

At the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference this summer, Duncan called the charter movement "one of the most profound changes in American education — bringing new options to underserved communities and introducing competition and innovation into the education system."

Starting at a competitive disadvantage will be 10 states that have never allowed charter schools — Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. An eleventh, Mississippi, which recently let its charter schools law expire, is expected to adopt a new law when its Legislature convenes in 2010.
Similar to Kentucky's Governor Beshear, who has suggested that KERA's school councils are essentially charter-lite,
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire says her state has a shot at some of the education reform money, but not as much as if it had a charter law...

...Gregoire, who recently talked with Duncan about the grants, is hoping to convince the education secretary that her state has other creative programs and is willing to change.

"The secretary was clear, that's what they're looking for — nontraditional schools that allow students to excel," Gregoire said. "I would like to show him some of our alternative schools and get his feedback."

Charter school groups and education experts say creativity may not be enough and Duncan may decide to use states like Washington as an example of what happens when you don't give the president what he wants...
Kentucky educators can wax nostalgic about the country's most sweeping reform effort all we want. But it seems Duncan is looking somewhere else.

Hat tip to KSBA.


Susan Weston said...

Yes, we'll lose three points of a hundred over charters. No,that won't knock us out of the competition. For example, SB 1 gives us a running start on implementing Common Core, one few other states will be able to match.

It's ABC that missed the main message of the RTTT draft priorities. The President himself decided which issue was do-or-die, and he didn't choose charters.

Anonymous said...

Why should this be any surprise. This was reported on this blog:
WASHINGTON - President Obama is leaning hard on the nation's schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid — and the threat of withholding it — to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers. Don't expect a share of the money without the sellout.

Anonymous said...

So...are the Race to the Top funds dependent solely on charter school adoption?

Richard Day said...


Anonymous said...

I wonder what the average educator knows about charter schools. I'm willing to bet the answer is "nothing."