So Much to Talk About in Public Education and This is What the Times Prints?

You have to shake your head.  What's up with the Times?

I'm pretty sure this guy isn't about throwing off the chains of public school education but more about vouchers.  That he cloaks his rhetoric in the "it's for the kids" school of thought doesn't make it any better.  (Note: like charters, we did vote on vouchers previously and again, the answer was no.)

So here’s a crazy idea that just might set the stage for real innovation to happen — a deep change to unleash the creative flow of new thinking and practices. What if we abolished our compulsory school attendance laws, let public schools partner with families and communities to define their own educational programs, and allowed families to choose the kind of education that best fit the needs of their child?

What would education without compulsory attendance look like? I can imagine a plethora of innovative programs: part-time schools; programs focused on specific skills, interests and themes; programs integrated with other community organizations; new public resources available for self-directed use. The sky is the limit.

Yes, and a pony for each kid as well.

This sounds a lot like what Mitt Romney wants to do with Medicare - give old people a check and let them figure it out.   Do parents and elders really have the time and knowledge to reinvent everything to suit their needs? 

I just went through a years-long process of figuring out how to care for my elderly mother (long-distance) and it was a humbling experience.  It is complicated and worrying and you almost never know if you got it right.

And every single parent should be doing this for their child?  There's a reason we have public education.


Unknown said…
I read that, too, and scratched my head. If anything, it makes The Times' opinions on education seem less credible than ever.
Unknown said…
The ST editorialists are not trying to persuade readers of this blog; they are going after the uninformed undecideds in what will be a close vote on I 1240.

This op-ed is so out there, it frames approving charters as a reasonable, centrist option--it's the least citizens can do to get some innovation into a stodgy, calcified system.

Whatever this author's conscious intent, this piece was published because it serves the ST corporate ed agenda. Any opinion by anybody who is in favor of blowing up the system serves the interests of privatizers who will be only too happy to swoop in to pick up the pieces.
Eric B said…
As my co-worker said a while back, the problem with giving everyone lots of choice is that many of them will just spend the money on beer. More seriously, how are even involved and committed parents supposed to know what kind of schooling is what their kid needs?
Anonymous said…
No Op-Ed piece by PTSA or WEA to offer what the alternative would be to 1240 or DIY schooling? Is there no school board member out there willing to write a counter to the stuff that gets printed? No educational leaders in the state of Washington? No public leader? What does that tell you?

There are people out there who don't have good schooling choices and they are going to lean toward what they think will give them a better alternative than the same old "stodgy, calcified system."

-fill the void
Charlie Mas said…
Change for change's sake is often the rationale behind support for charters.

It is foolish.

People need to be reminded that the choice is not this reform (whatever this reform is; charters, vouchers, ending compulsory attendance, or wearing socks inside-out) or nothing. The choice is this reform or some other reform.

People need to be reminded that students and families don't need more choices; they have a lot of them already. They need BETTER choices. Neither this proposal nor charter schools offers any reasonable expectation of a better choice (let alone a guarantee).
Jan said…
I gotta say, Eric -- the argument that charters are bad because government knows better than parents what is best for their kids leaves me cold. I don't think it is universally true (all those private school parents seem to be able to navigate this), as do parents looking for preschools, people looking for doctors or other medical care, etc. And even where it IS true, it feels to me like a put down.

To me, the persuasive argument is that this will result in a "defunding" of the best, most efficient educational model we have -- in favor of handing public funds to private enterprises to use with little oversight and (even worse) no commitment to efficient use of public funds.

We don't do this with water and electricity. We don't do it with public transit funds. This bill allows private interests to pull existing public schools OUT of the public system, set them up for however many kids they feel like serving (with whatever admissions and retention criteria they want). If they "convert a 16 classroom school with 4 portables that currently serves 500 kids (25 per classroom), but decide that they only want, say, 15 kids per classroom and no portables, within a few years, that building will only educate 240 kids. Where do the others go? Who knows! Not their problem.

AND, in the meantime, if the building is new and up to date on earthquake standards -- they will still siphon off a percentage of future levy dollars -- so if the remaining school system needs X dollars to renovate or rebuild other, old schools -- tough. They will have to raise X plus whatever additional amount the charter "gets" -- even though they don't need it (because they had the good sense to "convert" a newer school). This is nuts. Who would ever vote for a school levy when the dollars were used so illogically, and flowed to the hands of unaccountable charter operators?

This is the classic "private profit/public risk" scenario, played out in schools. If having charters increases costs, etc. == they are responsible for none of those costs. If they fail to take a proportionate share of ELL and SPED kids -- they share none of the costs of the kids they exclude. BUT -- they get public assets (converted schools) AND levy dollars, without regard to need, and with no obligation to maximize use of space or facilities.

What a scam!
Anonymous said…
Jan, I hope you or Melissa or someone will write a well-crafted opinion piece for the Seattle Times to counterbalance the pro-charter group. It's just not obvious to most people why the charter option isn't good.
Another parent
Eric B said…
Jan, I wholeheartedly agree with you, and have used many of those arguments in candidate forums opposing I-1240. The buying beer line was from a neighborhood blog a while back where it was suggested that people be given vouchers for the cost of public education and let the parents choose where to send the kids. It was pretty snarky even in context, and I agree it's too harsh out of context.
Anonymous said…
The Times believes the most important issue facing our country is charter schools. If that sounds like hyperbole, do you think they would have endorsed Obama if he wasn't a big charter supporter? Was anyone surprised when they endorsed McKenna over Inslee? Unfortunately, their editorial views are obvious and blatant in their news sections, which was rarely the case before the P-I print edition went under.

-- Ebenezer
Anonymous said…
I think we already have this in Seattle! Yes, we have "compulsory attendance," as a policy, but homeschooling is widely accepted and supported in many ways by the district (Homeschool resource center, ability to homeschool in specific subjects, etc.). We are not giving people a check, but the schools are doing plenty to support families' individual visions if the parents are able and willing to do the heavy lifting of the "sky is the limit" part of his proposal. And no doubt about it, the kind of freedom he describes includes beaucoup effort from parents.
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately Jan, the argument "charter schools will drain money away from public schools" doesn't hold water either. Money follows the students. And really, that should be ALL money, including levy money following students where ever they go. If students choose charter schools, then money should follow them there. The fact that money is leaving isn't a big deal because the student IS ALSO leaving. That isn't draining money out of system, it's simply changing the drain hole.

The problem is that anti-charter people sipmly don't offer another option. And while the "anti-charter" claims have some merit, there's also another side to each of them. And that other side, hasn't been addressed.

As Jan notes, "government knows best" isn't a good argument. I don't know anyone who believes this for themselves. Some believe it for "the masses" but not for themselves. How patronizing.

"Oh money is going somehwere else" isn't good because the money is still following the student.

The other related argument "Oh, look there's no accountability for the money" really falls flat given that there's 0 accountability in the current system.

"It segregates the rest of the schools" is hypocritical - most of the proponents of this have their kids in highly segregated "advanced" learning situations, or other boutiques which also result in concentrating "problem" kids in the rest of the system. That's perfectly fine by them. Evidently, the don't want the same deal for others that they've worked out for themselves.

"Oh the poor special ed kids". This is a really odd argument. Since when did anybody care about them? We only give a rip about special ed when we use it for something else - charter schools, splitting APP, etc.

"Private profit/public risk" is also lame. What's the risk? If the schools aren't popular, then people will vote with their feet. Or, another charter will take the place of the unpopular one.

Patrick said…
Parent at 7:45 AM, in answer to "what's the risk?": What's the procedure for closing a charter that's run fraudulently or just not performing well? There doesn't seem to be a defined procedure, which means it gets to go to court, and can be dragged out for years and years. It's nice the people could potentially vote with their feet, but where exactly are they going to go from a charter that's performing badly? There will be no space in the public schools, because the charter school took the public school that was supposed to be serving that neighborhood. A simple majority of parents or teachers can force conversion of a public school to a charter, but it's not nearly so easy to get rid of a bad charter, and we know from other states that a lot of the charters are bad.
Dorothy Neville said…
Actually, Patrick, there is a procedure for revoking a charter or non-renewal of one. It's vague, sure, but read the initiative. Authorizers CANNOT automatically revoke a charter or choose not to renew without due process. The charter operator is guaranteed sufficient notice, time to "improve" then guaranteed hearings and the right to counsel. So it is not just speculation that closing a charter will be hard, it is written right into the initiative that closing one will be hard --- and will cost taxpayers.

It's actually informative to read I729 and R55, as some of the language there was stronger in terms of closing charter schools. But even there, there was stronger language for closing due to poor performance, but not for issues such as stealing money or harming children. Due process there as well.

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