Wednesday, October 29, 2014

National Group Presses Case for Charters in Kentucky

 When I was a kid they would have been called "Outside Agitators"

Under the leadership of National Advocacy Director, Shreé Medlock, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) began its push to create charter schools in Kentucky in 2010. Kim Mapp and Pastor Jerry Stephenson, were named BAEO KY State Outreach Coordinators and began holding events to agitate for school choice. U K's Dr.Wayne Lewis became a prominent university spokesperson.

BAEO reached out to elected officials, candidates, and leaders in the faith-based and business communities. “Parents in Kentucky want more options," was the message of this national group - the same message used everywhere they went.

We’re planting seeds that will reap tremendous fruit for education reform and parental choice in Kentucky,” said Medlock, in 2010.

What is troublesome about the effort is its historical ties to racist groups that more recently use charters as a step stone to vouchers. Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, the current push for vouchers is led by conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors.

This from the Courier-Journal:
Louisville protestors push for charter schools

Holding signs reading "No More Failing Schools," nearly 50 education advocates gathered in downtown Louisville Monday to urge Kentucky lawmakers to pass a charter school law.

Parents and ministers with the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which organized the rally, said charter schools could help address lagging achievement, particularly for poor and minority students stuck in low-performing schools but unable to afford a private education.

"All students deserve a high-quality, free education ... regardless of their family's socioeconomic status," said Nicole Coggins, who has three children at Jefferson County Public Schools, as she stood on Louisville's old courthouse steps with the other demonstrators.

State charter proponents have pushed for a charter law for years to no avail. But their prospects could improve next year if Republicans retake the state House of Representatives in the November elections.

Kentucky is one of only a handful of states without some sort of charter school despite the approach being endorsed by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Mendell Grinter, state director of Educational Options, said publicly funded and independently run charter schools, freed from bureaucratic rules, are better able to adopt innovative teaching models, mandate smaller classes or use special schedules and programs.

But critics say they siphon money from public school systems and that, far from being a cure-all, on average they perform no better or worse than traditional public schools.

"Moving toward charter schools is a step toward privatization," said Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association.

Several rally speakers said the state's recent release of test scores showed the need to create charter school options for parents.

JCPS, for example, posted gains in college readiness, graduation rates and areas of academic proficiency, but only 43 of 137 schools tested were deemed proficient.

Grinter said the ongoing race and income achievement gaps suggest "black students are served the least" in the system, a long-term trend that warrants trying new approaches to boost achievement and spur competition among public schools.

JCPS already offers some level of choices among schools, including magnet programs to which students can apply. It is also working to open several "schools of innovation," including one that aims to provide extra social service help for students.

But Coggins said some of the district's magnet schools are academically selective and don't serve struggling students.
This from Aaron Yarmuth in Leo:

Future of Kentucky charter schools to be decided Nov. 4

Every once in a while, voters can make proactive decisions with absolute certainty of what the consequences of an election will be. The 2014 race for the Kentucky Legislature is one of these definitive instances.

By Kentucky’s Constitution, a governor’s veto of legislation can be overridden by a simple majority of both houses of the legislature. This means that if Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the governor will be powerless to prevent the most draconian conservative legislation this state has seen in the last century. The Republican wish list will assuredly include right-to-work legislation and anti-abortion bills.

However, one seldom-discussed issue that will be certain to forge its way through Frankfort is rolling out the red carpet for charter schools. Kentucky is one of eight remaining states in the union that does not spend taxpayer dollars on charter schools. And should the Republicans take control of the General Assembly, that domino will certainly fall.

LEO, in an effort to bring this debate to the forefront of voters’ minds, is bringing the debate to town before it is too late. In a Gallup poll released in August, 70 percent of Americans indicate support for charters, particularly as a public school “free of regulation,” while the vast majority have no experience with them or do not understand what they really are.

In the article “Charter Schools Don’t Need an Ad Campaign, They Need Regulation,” author Jeff Bryant illustrates, through a litany of cases, the perils of charter schools and deregulating education. In essence, charter schools can, and often do, become the washing machine for money-laundering schemes — or at least mechanisms for big business to siphon tax dollars from state education budgets to private pockets.

Louisville attorney Brian Butler, a dear friend and a thoughtful, libertarian contributor to this debate, presents the counter perspective of education reform, explaining, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.“

Make no mistake: This issue hangs in the balance of this election, and there will be no debate if Republicans seize the House.

This from Brian Butler in Leo:

Charter schools nourish the best and brightest who cannot afford private education

Campaign season is fully upon us. In our annual election ritual, some of our politicians have renewed their cry that they are “for education.” Really? Who is against education? But, nonetheless, they will wrap themselves in a comforting cloak that promises that if only we spend more money, then everyone would read, write and attend Harvard. If only we elect the newest, greatest, most well-meaning progressive, every child will enjoy a premiere education and all will be right in fantasy utopia. Don’t you just feel better thinking about their utopia? To hell with reality. But in my view, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

Our public school system is failing scores of our children. Of the 137 Jefferson County public schools tested, only 43 were deemed proficient or better. Put another way, 94 of our 137 public schools are NOT proficient. And make no mistake — proficient is hardly a high standard. Only in the government can disastrous results such as these lead our politicians to proclaim that modest improvements over last year indicate that we should stay the course.

According to the Huffington Post, the United States tops the world in spending per student on their education. However, we routinely trail many countries in our students’ performance. According to a 2011 Department of Education report, the average reading score for eighth-graders attending United States public schools was 19 points lower than the overall score for U.S. students attending private schools. A recent Brookings piece indicates that the average Catholic school cost per elementary student was approximately $6,000, whereas the average public school spending per elementary student was approximately $12,000. Lack of money is not the problem with our public schools, and allegedly incompetent teachers are not to blame.

Our poorly performing public schools are a direct consequence of the decline of the family foundation. Since the 1960s, when radicals and the intelligentsia began to attack the traditional foundations of American society, progressives have sought through political correctness to force us to ignore the fact that statistically, children do better if they are raised in a home with a mother and father. Certainly, children from non-traditional families can and often do thrive, but it is more difficult for them. The poor performance of our public schools is exacerbated by the lack of respect for authority. This unfortunate trend to denigrate the traditional stalwarts of American society has contributed to a lack of respect for teachers by many students and some parents. Rather than the teacher almost always being right, we live in a society where the teachers are often the targets of abuse, threats and intimidation. The problem is not with funding or teachers; the problem is with us. Our public education system is merely a reflection of the decline of America caused by a devaluation of the Judeo-Christian foundations of our republic.

Charter schools are not necessarily the cure-all to what is ailing public education.  The cure-all to public education is to restore the family structure to American society, remove the elite progressive agenda from public education, and return to the simple formula of teaching our children to read, write and do arithmetic. But given the performance of our public education system, charter schools are a must.

Charter schools are independently run public schools that have greater accountability for performance. The schools have the freedom from some of the burdensome bureaucracy of the public school system. Most importantly, parents and students choose to go to these charter schools. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that charter students perform ahead of public school kids in reading and approximately the same in math. Of critical importance, Patrick J. Wolf, author of a recent study and a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas, found that charter schools were 40 percent more cost effective in math and 41 percent more cost effective in reading compared to traditional public schools. In sum, charter schools’ budgets were, on average, significantly less than traditional public schools’, but they outperformed the traditional public schools.

Some charter schools have achieved incredible results, particularly in poor urban areas. Charter schools have the opportunity to be innovative and to tie their innovation to improved performance or risk closure. Charter schools function like the private sector, where success is measured and failure mandates change.

Most importantly, charter schools give a choice to parents and students who do not have the financial means to attend a private school. Parents have the opportunity to put their children in an environment where other children strive to learn. Parents have the opportunity to obtain the benefits of a private school educational experience through a charter school. It is foolish and cruel not to nourish the best and brightest among us who happen not to have the financial ability to escape our often failing public schools. Give parents and students a choice about what is best. Give students an opportunity to reach their maximum potential. Do not curse those that want to maximize their potential by not giving them another option besides the all-too-often failing public school. Our children deserve better.

Opportunity should not be limited to only those that are financially blessed.

The elites fear school choice because deep down, below their dreams of a fantasy utopia, they know that rational people making choices in the best interests of their beloved children will chose opportunity over quagmire and failure. But in the end, should not it be the parents and students who choose — not the elites who proclaim to know better than we do what is in our best interests?

Brian Butler is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and Notre Dame Law School.  He is a former United States Navy J.A.G., Assistant Commonwealth and Assistant United States Attorney. Currently, he is an attorney in private practice in Louisville.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This may be all well in good for Jefferson County and maybe half a dozen other KY counties but what about the other 110 county and independent school districts in our state? I don't see anyone rushing in to create charter schools in poorer rural counties where the need is just as great - just more disparity among public schools is all I see.

Also, what happens if you are not one of the "brightest and best" for that charter school? You somehow don't rate the same education by our state?

Just tax money grab by private interests