Charter schools in danger

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September 30th, 2009 :: Permalink

Aloha ~
The first thing we must acknowledge is that it remains unclear whether charter schools provide a more effective learning environment than do traditional public schools. As charter schools are relatively new, there is inconsistent and incomplete data about their effectiveness. Early studies reported keiki in charter schools were not learning as much as keiki in regular schools in their neighborhoods (WaPost, 2004). There has been more recent evidence to support these early findings.

Second, public schools are ALWAYS short on funding. While community demands on the system are infinite and never ending, financial support consistently falls behind. Under such conditions, system players are rarely excited to see "innovative" groups spring up and stick their fingers in the till. Yet in all my years of education, I have never witnessed behavior from traditional public educators that I would characterize as "a hostile intent in the DOE to end-run their legislative authorization and put them out of busisess (sic)."

In David's excellent opinion editorial today [3], he asks the following question:

If the union's primary concern is what's best for teachers and management's primary concern is what's best for teachers, who is looking out for what's best for students, their parents and the community at large?

As we know, a CEO is mandated by law to provide the greatest return for shareholders in the venture; likewise union officials are tasked to provide the best conditions for teachers. Yet I want to clarify that management (administration) is not solely focused on what is best for teachers. Administrators serve the public first and must balance numerous priorities, which is why their job is so difficult, but they are clearly focused on meeting the needs of our keiki.

David has challenged us with the question whether "charter schools are in danger." I'm sure they are, as our entire education system is in danger presently. Tom Macdonald, finance committee chairman of the Charter School Review Panel, which is the governing body of the system of 31 charter schools, reported (HA, March 2009) that "charter schools are bracing for even lower per-pupil funding next year. That's because the governor has requested the charter school budget remain at $57 million, even as enrollment in charter schools is expected to rise from about 7,600 this year to about 8,500 next year."

From Macdonald's perspective, the villain here is our Republican governor. She is sufficiently financially astute to know that maintaining the same annual funding while the keiki population is rising means less dollars per student. Under our current state fiscal crisis, Gov. Lingle recognizes that additional funding must come from tax increases. This is a red-line for conservatives of her flavor: keiki or taxes ... keiki or taxes. We know her (their) answer

Many Hawaiians have argued teachers should do their patriotic duty and willingly agree to pay cuts or should work for free rather than take furlough days. I heard a rumor that many of these advocates rushed a local military recruiting station and volunteered to serve in Afghanistan for free - NOT!

In addition they claim that since private sector laborers are facing cuts or layoffs, public employees should share the collective pain. I need to point out that public employees are not paid as lucratively as private sector employees to begin with. Most agree to trade a degree of security for less compensation. Further, public employees rarely profit in boom times, as they are not offered or allowed bonuses when the economy is thriving. They fight tooth and nail through their unions simply to receive cost of living adjustments. Raises are paltry and rare.

David asks in his editorial, "Who among our respected community leaders will have the courage to step up for our keiki and make it happen?"

I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw on a teacher's car at Koloa elementary school recently. I can't quote it exactly so forgive my paraphrasing:

What a day it will be when education for our children is fully funded and the Pentagon relies on bake sales to finance its next bomber.

Yes, David, who among ALL OF US will have the courage to step up for our keiki and make it happen? Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man, addressed members of Congress recently. He reported he paid a 16.5% federal tax rate while those working for his company in the $30K to $85K range paid 25%. Why are America's most rich paying a smaller percentage of taxes than middle class workers when our keiki suffer in underfunded schools?

This is the danger ...

A*L*O*H*A

SOURCES:
[1] Washington Post, 2004
[2] HonoluluAdvertiser, March 2009
[3] Teachers' contract leaves keiki behind