Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Charters and Vouchers and Testing, oh my.

With all the events going on around the world this month, my dad has been calling and singing Kingston Trio lyrics to me:

They're rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us, will be done by our fellow man.

If anyone knows the extent of what nature can do to us, it is my master-of-disaster father. (He also knows more obscure song-lyrics from the 1950s than anyone else I know...)

The news about what nature can do has been absolutely horrifying this week.

I didn't think the "fellow-man" news could get worse for education in Wisconsin after seeing the nearly $900 million cut to K-12 education in Walker's budget. But boy was I wrong. Welcome to SB-22.

  • Creates a 9-person authorizing board for charter schools: 3 appointed by the governor, 3 by the senate majority leader, and 3 by the speaker of the assembly.

  • Changes current law that limits organizations to opening only one charter school. SB 22 permits one organization or company to open multiple charter schools which allows non- and for-profit franchised Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to enter Wisconsin.

  • Modifies teacher licensure requirements so that teachers in charters do not need certification.

  • Lifts cap on and promotes virtual (online) charter schools
Lining up right behind SB-22 is an upcoming bill on vouchers, to divert education money from public schools to private schools.

At first glance, this looks great, right? More charter schools! More innovation! What's not to like?

There's a lot not to like:
  • The charter School authorizing board circumnavigates the local school districts, limits legislative oversight and allows Walker’s cronies, who have no experience in education, to make influential decisions about schools.

  • There simply isn't data to support that charter schools, in and of themselves, are better than public schools. There are good charter schools. And bad charter schools. Stanford has lots of research worth reading here.

  • I'm still reading all the info, but I have yet to find any good information on how the charter school/voucher plan will serve special education or English language learners. It is really expensive to serve these populations and they don't always have high scores on standardized tests. If we move to a system that is run solely by efficiency and measurable results, it could have devastating consequences for many of our students.
The one up-side to all of this horrid budget news is that I have met some of the most incredible people as we organize to oppose the destruction of public education in Wisconsin. Last night, I met an amazing group of young women who started Public Schools for the Public Good - a great website for the latest news on education, both locally and nationally.

Stay tuned. This isn't over. Across the political spectrum, the citizens of Wisconsin value public education and we will not let Scott Walker destroy it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We may be missing the point on the charter schools. I would propose that governor Walker really doesn't think charter schools will provide better schools either. But rather by sending money their way, he helps de-fund/debase the public school system. This achieves many Republican goals such as sending more pupils to Religious schools, over time reducing the overall population of students funded by the state as more opt out for private schools, de-funding the largely Democratic base of support that is public educators and opening up the potential for Republican campaign contributions coming from the corporate schools now newly added to the mix. Bob