Superman Has Left the Building (and left the majority of the children behind)

On January 20th, a bill (HB 2428)  to establish Charter Schools was heard in the Washington State House Education Committee. While waiting for the ice and snow to melt, I decided to watch the hearing on HB 2428 introduced by Representatives Eric Pettigrew (D-37th) and Glenn Anderson (R-5th).

Each time charter schools become an issue, I check my internal barometer to see how I feel about the issue. My children have graduated from Seattle Public Schools and have gone on to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. I have pretty much pulled away from public life since my last child left for college and the school board I helped elect was ousted by powerful private interests.

The 20 years I spent organizing with and advocating for disadvantaged parents in Seattle’s schools seemed like it yielded very few results. Even my volunteerism in the highly impacted schools my  children attended had marginal but unsustainable results.

In the Rainier Beach neighborhood where I have lived in for 22 years, I see the results of our schools’ failure almost daily.

One would think after dealing with such an intractable bureaucracy I would be at the front of the parade banging the drums for charter schools.

However, I can’t.

I can’t support a system that siphons resources from our terribly underfunded public schools to benefit a select few. The 295 school districts in our state serve a little more than 1 million students. After 5 years of charter school implementation, the proposed legislation would only serve approximately 100,000 students.

I can’t support the efforts of our legislators who are willing to challenge the powerful “special interests” like unions and the majority of voters to create charter schools, but lack the political will to raise the revenue from corporations to fully fund ALL of our public schools.

I can’t support legislation that allow for-profit organizations called “learning management organizations” to  use public resources to run private schools.

I can’t support using disadvantaged and children of color as the reasons for creating charter schools when, in truth, top performing charter schools only serve 38% of the high needs population.

Finally, I can’t support legislation that is drafted by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) — the right wing organization founded by the Koch brothers. HB 2428 is almost, verbatim, ALEC’s education policy.

Charter schools have a 20 year track record. Some charters outperform public schools but most don’t. If charter schools are Superman, then Superman has left the building leaving MOST of the children who need to be saved behind — taking more of their resources with him.

Our legislators know what works — the best practices for quality education have been well documented. If the sponsors of HB 2428 were serious about improving education for disadvantaged children they would invest in what works for all of our schools.

To repeat what Rep. Pettigrew said at the hearing  “our children can’t wait.” We need fully funded public schools that serve ALL of our children – not the “flavor of the month” that only serves a few.

Related Links:

HB 2428 Bill Summary

http://www.leg.wa.gov/pub/billinfo/2011-12/Htm/Bill%20Reports/House/2428%20HBA%20ED%2012.htm

Going Exponential: Growing the Charter Schools Sectors Best

http://progressivepolicy.org/going-exponential-growing-the-charter-school-sectors-best

ALEC Education Policy

http://www.alec.org/docs/17thReportCard/ALECs_17th_Report_Card.pdf

More About ALEC

http://www.alternet.org/investigations/151627/inside_alec,_the_koch-funded_group_behind_right-wing_state_laws?page=entire

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About The Momarchy

As a single mom, I was desperate to restore some semblance of order to my life and enjoy raising my children. My children are adults now and I believe I achieved my goal. This blog post is to share what worked, what didn't and what I learned from the other wise women in my life. Take what you need or share what you learned. Married or single, it does take a village to raise a child. Ladies...this is our village.
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4 Responses to Superman Has Left the Building (and left the majority of the children behind)

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks.

  2. Charlie Mas says:

    There is nothing that a charter school can do that a public school cannot do.

    If there is some instructional strategy that a charter school would implement that would work to close the opportunity and achievement gap, we could implement that same strategy in our public schools. Why don’t we?

    The main reason we don’t is that there is no such magical strategy. The solution is the same that it has always been: set and maintain high expectations for all students and give them the support they need to meet those expectations.

    Charter schools are snake oil. They sell the promise of relief to people who are suffering, but the promise is empty. The promise is appealing because it is built on two truths. First, the truth that our school district leadership and school leadership is not responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. It’s tragic, but this is the most local form of democracy we have and even here we feel that we have no voice. The other truth is that our schools do not do what they have to do to close the opportunity and achievement gap. If they did, the schools in low-income neighborhoods would look very different from the schools in affluent communities. They would have smaller class sizes, longer school days,weeks, and years, more before- and after-school activities, more community events, and a larger set of intervention tools.

    If the state legislature wanted to help these students in a meaningful way, they would, first of all, fully fund public education. Second, they would put pressure on their local districts to do the things that they were hoping charter schools would do. They would support districts to take bolder steps to close the gap. They would apply the sort of scrutiny to public schools that they were going to put on charter schools. They would enforce the accountability measures already in our laws. If it is good to close schools that don’t show good results, then why don’t state officials close or “transform” schools in Step 5 of sanctions under No Child Left Behind as they are supposed to do? They would give public schools the relief from state regulations that were supposed to free the charter schools to soar.

  3. Dian Ferguson says:

    Thanks for providing this insightful piece. I am pondering as well my views on why public education in the Seattle School District is failing many African American students, refugees, low-income and students of color. The fixes are well know, experience teachers, leadership at the principal level, equity in resource allocation and the will to put academic success and graduation at the top.

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