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Posted at 8:00 PM ET, 02/16/2011

Why do great school systems fear charters?

By Jay Mathews

I admire the erudite and public-spirited members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Their superintendent, Jerry D. Weast, is one of the best in the business, a national leader with a smart staff.

So why are they so frightened of two little charter schools?

The Maryland State Department of Education shares my puzzlement. It looked carefully at the two most recent Montgomery charter applicants, Global Garden Public Charter School and Crossway Montessori Charter School, and promised them a $550,000 grant each once they got their charter approved. The charter groups had fresh ideas, energetic supporters and experienced educators, including two members of the Global Garden board who worked in Montgomery schools.

That was not enough to quell the fears of Weast’s staff and an assortment of internal and external advisers. Weast’s nine-page summary of their worries reads like a neurotic mother’s letter to her son at summer camp, bemoaning all the terrible things that might happen to him.

Montgomery County has never approved a charter school. These independently run public schools use tax dollars but don’t have to follow school district rules. On average, they do about as well as regular public schools, though the best charters lead the country in raising the achievement of low-income children. Those are the kids the Montgomery charter groups most wanted to help.

As my colleague Jenna Johnson reported recently, the school board rejected both proposals. Now the Maryland State Board of Education has asked it for a better explanation of its decisions, which the state panel called “vague and, at best, confusing.”

I thought the state board was exaggerating. The people on the Montgomery school board would never treat hardworking and well-meaning educators like that. But I just read the two resolutions they approved and think the state board was too kind. The resolution on the Global Garden proposal was 214 words, and the one about Crossway Montessori was 221 words.

They reminded me of those responses you get when you complain about a tax bill: Our experts say you are wrong. Go away.

Montgomery County schools spokesman Dana Tofig acknowledged that the resolutions “did not specify reasons for denial.” He noted they are not required to do so under state law. Essentially they said: None of the other county school boards in Maryland have to justify their almost universal paranoia about charter schools, so why should we?

Tofig said the board will share its reasoning with the state soon. I am sure the experts who helped Weast prepare his memo are sincere in their view that the charter school plans are not good enough. They didn’t like Global Garden’s commitment to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow,” a state of engagement and fulfillment. They fretted that Crossway Montessori might not be able to keep its public and private funds separate.

They ignored the possibility that those issues could be taken care of, with the county’s guidance, once the charter people got rolling, as happens when any public school opens.

Still, Montgomery County has a special Web site for charter applicants. Board members say they would be happy to approve a proposal if they ever got one they liked.

What are the chances of that? In the District, charters are approved by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which is independent of the public school system. That board doesn’t see charters as unnerving competition but as a way to give parents more choices and teachers an opportunity to be creative. It has approved some charters that failed and closed them. It has also approved some charter plans that were less impressive than the Montgomery applications but that blossomed.

The D.C. board let energetic teachers give it a try. It is sad that the fine people in Montgomery County running one of the nation’s best school districts lack that courage and the confidence that imaginative educators can find better ways to help more kids.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | February 16, 2011; 8:00 PM ET
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags:  Crossway Montessori Charter School, Global Garden Public Charter School, Montgomery County, public charter schools  
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Comments

Little bit of editorializing, isn't that, Jay? Why would you call their persistent refusals "fear"? "Reject" would be the correct word.

As for why they persistently reject charters, geez, I can't think why. Could it be that charters will take away funding, cherry pick motivated students, and constantly yammer about how fabulous they are compared to those mindless, heartless, student hating comprehensive schools?

Naw.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | February 16, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps they were afraid of teachers in charter schools that might eat bees in front of children or tape the mouths of children.

They might also be fearful of charter schools that will not keep public records such as the results of standardized tests.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 16, 2011 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Weast’s nine-page summary of their worries reads like a neurotic mother’s letter to her son at summer camp, bemoaning all the terrible things that might happen to him.
.........................
The usual with Mr. Mathews who does not give readers any indication how to obtain or read this document but simply gives us his bias report of it.

And of course Mr. Mathews never mentions that all these groups are providing to get public funds is proposals.

Apparently if anyone off the street submits a proposal for half a million the proposal should be accepted immediately according to Jay Mathews.

And of course Jay Mathews does not mention that many charter schools with proposals are closed down when they are seen to run poor schools with the loss of state funds and the loss of education of children.

Well how about Jay Mathews promises to pay back the state if later it is seen that the writers of the proposal did not provide services worth the half a million?

Jay Mathews would become flustered and say no way.

Well how about the proposers promising the return of public funds and the costs of dealing with children that have been given an education if they can not run a school properly.

But of course Jay Mathews would say that this would be unreasonable to expect, while Jay Mathews simply says that state funds should simply be turned over quickly on the basis of a proposal.

No liability and obtain half a million by writing a proposal. Not a bad way to make money.

Perhaps Mr. Mathews on retirement is going to going to go into business as a consultant on proposals for charter schools. Half the fee to help with the proposal and half the fee if the proposal is accepted.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 16, 2011 11:03 PM | Report abuse

By the way Jay Mathews gives the website of the two applicants that want to receive half a million each based on their proposal.

One website is simply about the school that the proposer want public money for. So these proposers have simply only spent money to create a website and write the proposal for the half a million they want.

The other website is to a private business that has been offering day care service and now wants to expand to a primary school.

There certainly would be plenty of business for Jay Mathews next year when he retires as a consultant for proposals for public funds.

Jay Mathews makes the point that the public school district is superior.

So what is the point of gambling 1 million dollars of public funds on charter schools that may be a total wastes of public funds and leave children poorly educated.

Remember when charter schools have failed in the past it is not only the loss of public funds but also children that have been given a poor education.

Maybe in a really poorly performing public school district there is some sense in gambling on a pig in a poke but why do this in a public school system that is providing excellent value for public funds spent on education.

Why gamble on whether children may receive a poor education at two charter schools when the public school district provides a good education.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 16, 2011 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Two things:

First off all, I'm in full agreement with the first commenter. After hearing Jay Mathews tell us we can't say someone lied because we don't know that person's internal state with certainty, he gets to tell us someone fears something? How does he know the internal state of the members of the Montgomery County BoE?

Second, he does an injustice to the discussion with the line "On average, [charter schools] do about as well as regular public schools, though the best charters lead the country in raising the achievement of low-income children." All true, but what about the worst of the charter schools? It seems a bit disingenuous to bring up the middle and the best in a defense of charters without acknowledging that there's another tail to the distribution.

(Disclosure: One of my children attends a high-quality charter school. I have other children in regular public schools.)

Posted by: dfbdfb | February 17, 2011 1:58 AM | Report abuse

As a taxpayer my "fear" of charter schools is that public property and funds are being transferred to education profiteers. As reported in Bill Turque's blog http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/2010/11_charter_financial_analysis_dra.html

According to Tom Nida, the former Chairman of the D.C. Charter School Board, D.C. Charter schools now control over $300 million of real estate that use to belong to the taxpayers. They also generated a "net profit" over $24 million.

Vincent Gray had to move his town hall meetings out of public schools to charter schools because a "political event" could not be held on public property.

Sheesh. Wake up DC

Posted by: mrpozzi | February 17, 2011 5:07 AM | Report abuse

Montgomery County has a great school system...so why should charters come into the picture to take public funds? Where I work, in Philly, charters serve a role and a purpose. Who can begrudge families who want to send their children to a school where they won't be attacked and have the school admin hide the misconduct because it looks bad on their reports?

However, Mo. Co. doesn't seem to have a problem with their schools. What ever happened to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I can well imagine that a superintendent who helped build a system of great schools, supportive and dedicated teaching staff and engaged parents would NOT want to see a dismantling of that from charters.

One could argue, if your schools are so great, why would charters be a threat? It's very simple. Charters take public funds. In this era of deeply slashed budgets, this school district should fight for every education dollar. If they weren't delivering a high quality education, there would be at least a justification for parsing out monies to other entities. There is also the very real possibility that these charters may not deliver on their educational promise. That's wasted tax payer funds which doesn't come back.

Now the accusations against the mixing of public and private funds sound like a red flag to me. Perhaps that's because in Philadelphia, we had a cluster of charter schools who had "creative" accounting practices. At least a few charter school leaders are sitting in a PA state prison right now due to this creativity. However, that wasn't the worst of it. The worst is that Philadelphia, despite a huge influx of charters, had very little oversight and controls in place to monitor unorthodox accounting practices. That's a real problem and not one to be dismissed Jay. Taxpayers deserve to know where their money is going. In Philadelphia, dozens of charters had accounting problems, not necessarily malfeasance, but poor record keeping. It's a real issue.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | February 17, 2011 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Despite the headline being an editorial in and of itself, it's also telling. Why, indeed, would a great school system "fear" charter schools? It's a paradox, right?

Remember that a paradox is defined as a SEEMING contradiction. Applied to the above, that would lead us to look for the facts behind the appearance, the facts that would enable us to resolve the contradiction.

One element that's been missing in every WaPo story about this situation is any information on or discussion of teacher contracts for these proposed charters. You don't suppose that might be the key variable why MoCo's been holding back?

Especially considering that this has been the elephant in the room in every WaPo education story for the past five years.

Since this op-ed (for that's what it is) is so long on opinion and so short on critical details, I went to the linked websites for each of these schools and was unable to find their application documents on either one. If I'm willing to read 275 pages per app, for each applicant, why don't they put them up there so I can do so?

Charter schools have a history of being used as stalking horses, with a hidden agenda of union-busting via substandard non-union contracts. I suspect the MoCo school board won't look favorably on proposals that show any signs of hidden agendas of any sort. And good for them!

And as long as WaPo articles continue to play footsy with us, they won't have the least bit of traction in changing anyone's mind.

Posted by: laboo | February 17, 2011 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Those commenting on this article might want to familiarize themselves with the Maryland state charter school law. Charter schools in Maryland are required to operate under existing union agreements. The "union busting" smear doesn't apply in Maryland. Under the law, students at public charter schools are required to pass the same standardized tests as other public schools.

The "charter schools take public funds" argument also makes no sense. Every public school that opens, be it charter or traditional, "takes public funds." Charter schools also take public school children, reducing both revenue and expense. Should an incredibly over-crowded cluster not get a new elementary school because it takes away funds from other schools?

Magnet schools "cherry pick motivated students." Should they be closed, too?

Finally, the local school board has the ability to shut down a charter school after it has opened. This is a safety valve that renders most of the other arguments moots.

Posted by: jonathan_krebs | February 17, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Besides Mr. Mathews attacking the document of the Superintendent and not giving readers any indication how to obtain or read this document, Mr. Mathews has not given readers any indication of how to obtain and read the proposals on line.

For all we know Mr. Mathews has never even seen or read the proposals himself.

Mr. Mathews can not provide readers any access to the documents and the readers are supposed to take Mr. Mathews view without any thought or evidence.

Mr. Mathews may pretend that he is columnists with a past reputation of trust like Valerie Strauss but he is not.

Also according to Mr. Mathews the law is that there is no requirement to indicate reasons for not accepting a proposal.
"He noted they are not required to do so under state law."

Besides the entire purpose of allowing charter schools to receive public funds is for public good and not simply to accept proposals. What supposedly is the public good that will derive from these schools that is not already being obtained in the public school district?

Are these charter schools focused on accepting students chosen by the District that are failing or having problems in the current public schools of the District?

No.

Time to recognize that the idea of charter schools is not really school choice but rather to meet a need that is not already being met. There is no purpose is accepting a proposal that can only offer the possibility that they may if they are successful provide what is already available in the District when the public has to put up all the money for this gamble.

And please Mr. Mathews recognize that readers do not hold you in trust where all you can provide is bombast with no access to documents.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

bsall. -- so many words, so little thought.

you sound rather fearful of charters and the possibility that they educate someone's kid better than someone else's. Can you blame any parent in the District for having that hope?

You want to manacle the children to schools that are boat anchors. And you want to "level" the field, using the cracked lens you wield to view public education.

You remind me of parents in one Ward 7 school (yes) and one Ward 3 school that I know of who were attacked for contributing time and supplies to their own kids' classes. It was deemed underhanded and inappropriate by the envious attacker-parents who did not contribute time and other resources.

Your attitude will smother any improvements and any innovations and help condemn our children to being poorly educated. Could you possibly live in the District? Or is this just sport to you?

Posted by: axolotl | February 17, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Finally, the local school board has the ability to shut down a charter school after it has opened. This is a safety valve that renders most of the other arguments moots.

Posted by: jonathan_krebs
...........................
But shutting down a charter school later will not recover the public funds that have been wasted or the education that has been lost by students.

The corporation disappears just like the public funds.

Change the law so that the state can hold those running the charter school personally liable for public funds and costs of damages if there are reason to shut down.

But the proponents of charter schools would say this is unreasonable but it supposedly it is not unreasonable to gamble public money on charter schools in a district that is already providing a high level of education in public schools.

Time to recognize that there is no purpose for charter schools in well performing districts of public schools. The only purpose for the charter schools would be if they can provide some service that is not already being providing. I could see the reason for a charter school if the focus is taking students chosen by the District but I can not see any purpose in a charter schools that is claiming that hopefully we will do just as well as the existing public schools.

There is absolutely no purpose in buying these pigs in a poke.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Your attitude will smother any improvements and any innovations and help condemn our children to being poorly educated. Could you possibly live in the District? Or is this just sport to you?

Posted by: axolotl
........................
I live in a District with excellent public schools and there is no purpose in gambling with public funds when charter schools are simply hoping to duplicate services already available in the public schools.

The only purpose that a charter school might offer in this district is if were to take students chosen by the District that would benefit from the charter school that totally focuses on the problems of these students and is not being handled adequately by the public school. But this would require those behind the charter school to work with the District and create a proposal that actually meets a need, instead of filling out a boiler plate proposal.

As usual you have not responded to any of the argument I put forth such as those running charter schools taking full personal liability.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Your attitude will smother any improvements and any innovations ...

Posted by: axolotl
.......................
No mention that the failure rate of charter schools is high and so there is no improvements or innovations.

Why do so many want the government to pay for their ideas of supposedly improvement and innovation?

axolotl failed to write:
Your attitude will stop the loss of state funds that can not be recovered.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

In reference to charter schools, Jay writes that: "On average, they do about as well as regular public schools, though the best charters lead the country in raising the achievement of low-income children."

What Jay leaves out, and it's a lot to leave out, is this (from the 2009 Center or Research on Education Outcomes, at Stanford University):

"...37 percent of charter schools showed
gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference."

That statement from a national charter school research study is far more specific about charter schools, and much different in interpretation, than saying that charters "do about as well as regular public schools."

The CREDO study found that "...in the
aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their Traditional Public School counterparts. Further,tremendous variation in academic quality among charters is the norm, not the exception. The problem of quality is the most pressing issue that charter schools and their supporters face."

And while Jay writes that charter schools "lead the country in raising the achievement of low-income children," he doesn't say that the percentage of successful charter schools is small (about 17 percent), that gain scores are generally modest, and most importantly, that successful charter schools for low-income students face "the notoriously difficult process of replication."

It may not be that Montgomery County officials (or school leaders anywhere) "fear" charter schools.

It may be that they simply believe charters schools are oversold as an educational panacea (if that's the belief, then the research backs them up) and/or that their particular policies for addressing and improving achievement gains for low-income learners are better than what charter proposals offer.

Either way, it'd be better if Jay were more forthcoming on the efficacy of charter schools.

Posted by: mcrockett1 | February 17, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I find many of the comments here to be simply assumptions and not based on any facts.

1. charter schools use union teachers who have already been approached about the charter school (Global Garden)
2. Charter schools do not "cherry pick" students but rather the school (Global Garden) would be open by lottery (any one in the county would have a chance of attending)
3. take resources away... there are a number of schools in the proposed site area (of Global garden) that are overcrowded so a new school in the area would certainly help relieve the burden on the rest of the county school and would receive the same per pupil allotment
4. take money - the charter schools in montgomery county (global garden) is not a company for profit and is simply set up to run a new school (alternative)
5. the $500K was a grant from the State of Maryland to assist in the starting of a charter school (not free money) and is only available after the charter is approved... this is free money to Montgomery county as the charter schools have already done the work (for free on their own time) of writing the grant application to the state.

I agree. why is the county so afraid of trying something new? just because it is the "best" school SYSTEM in the country does not mean that ALL of those schools in the system are great. Give parents a CHOICE!

Posted by: thoughts4 | February 17, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

thoughts4 wrote: 5. the $500K was a grant from the State of Maryland to assist in the starting of a charter school (not free money) and is only available after the charter is approved... this is free money to Montgomery county as the charter schools have already done the work (for free on their own time) of writing the grant application to the state.
______________________
As a teacher in MoCo, this disturbs me. The state is cutting funds to public school districts but they can afford to do this? We are feeling the effects of budget cuts right and left. While I agree that innovation in education should be encouraged, the very state BOE that is encouraging such innovation by opening up the doors to more charters, is also stiffling innovation by working on adding more standardized tests and mandating an evaluation system that will be a step backward for Montgomery County schools whose evaluation system has been nationally recognized for a variety of reasons. Sorry--but those state grants could be put to better use given the current economic situation.

Posted by: musiclady | February 17, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I agree. why is the county so afraid of trying something new?
Posted by: thoughts4
........................
More absurdity since there is no evidence that the charter schools are offering anything new that is not provided by the county.

How can anyone make this claim when the information on the the proposals is not available to view?

So far the only thing I see new is that the charter schools want public funds that normally go to public schools to go to them.

One tires of the proponents of charter schools in a District with well thought of public schools.

A little thought that in public schools there is personnel accountability for the principals and the superintendent that are responsible for the use of public funds.

These public officials are held accountable. Their career reputations are soiled if there are failures in the schools that are funded by public funds.

Meanwhile there is absolutely none of this personal responsibility of those who want to run charter schools with public funds.

When charter schools fail there is no personal accountability. The corporation simply disappears. The reality is that even if these charter schools fail from malfeasance in the use of public funds nothing is done since the funds can not be recovered without expensive litigation.

The only really thing new about these charter schools is that in this District that does not have charter schools the proposers of charter schools want public funds for public education to be diverted to them.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I apologize for not linking to the Weast report. I am not skilled in these matters and did not see a way to do it. I will now seek expert advice from Mr. Tofig and try again.

Posted by: jaymathews | February 17, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I love the proponents of charter schools.

They use words like "new", "innovations", "fresh ideas", and "improvements", yet they can not give one example of these words in regard to charter schools.

The reality is that they give no examples since there is nothing new, or innovative from charter schools in regard to education and there are no improvement or "fresh" ideas.

When educators have new or innovative ideas they publish them. When educators have improvements in regard to education the publish them.

Time for the proponents of charter schools to understand that they will convince no one by their use of words that readers are supposed to Pavlovian respond to as dogs to the sight of meat.

There really are people that graduated public school that can read and do more than simply note the presence of certain words in sentences.

And leave it to Mr. Mathews to use "fresh ideas" without any indication of the idea. He does the proponents of charter schools one better in expecting a Pavlovian response to use of an adjective before the noun. Yes the dog will response more to "fresh meat" instead of "stale meat".

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I apologize for not linking to the Weast report. I am not skilled in these matters and did not see a way to do it. I will now seek expert advice from Mr. Tofig and try again.

Posted by: jaymathews
.....................
You should also provide links to the proposals. The articles does not contain one single item from the proposal to indicate your claim of "fresh ideas".

As a columnist it is your responsibility to provide evidence in the article to back up your statements.

The article does not contain a single line from either the evaluation of the superintendent, or the proposal to back up the claims you have made.

Meanwhile Valerie Strauss has a new column that is intelligent and interesting.

The reality is that large numbers of readers post to the columns of Mr. Mathews simply because the columns are so poor in thought.

Many readers would be posting to claims by a columnist that the world is flat.

Mr. Mathews might be happy with this but the Washington Post might want to consider that perhaps their goals is not to support yellow journalism.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Mo. Co. seems to be doing one thing extremely well: providing a high-quality education, free of charge to all of its students. That alone should be a rationale for rejecting any charter. Do charters take and retain any student? Well, we know that's not true. Most charters run like the wind when they are confronted with more difficult special ed children. All of a sudden, it's "Your child would get more services from the local public school."

I can imagine that some parents may want "fresh" or new or whatever ideas in teaching for their children, but that is not what federal law requires. Students have a right to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). nothing in that law mentions new, creative, blah, blah, blah. If parents want a boutique education for their child, pay for it. That's what private schools are for. The taxpayer shouldn't been in the business of paying for their neighbors' whims and interests.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | February 17, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: musiclady
.....................
I agree with you but would like to point out everyone wants innovation in public education but Mr. Mathews has not given one example of the innovation that the two charter schools has offered on their proposals.

I believe that this omission is because there is no innovation or new ideas.

Just having a charter school instead of a public school is not an innovation.

Time for the charter schools to specify the innovations that they are offering.

In reality the state might have better schools if it offered to fund programs in public schools that actually implement innovations and new ideas.

The Federal government funds specific innovations. It does not fund individuals who simply claims that they are innovative.

Charter schools in proposals should indicate the specific innovations and new ideas that they will implement. There is no sense in funding a charter school without a thorough understanding of why state funds should be gambled on them. Just having a charter school is not sufficient.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Finally, the local school board has the ability to shut down a charter school after it has opened. This is a safety valve that renders most of the other arguments moots.

Posted by: jonathan_krebs | February 17, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

---------

How? Why would the local school board allow a charter to open with thoughts that they might very well have to shut it down?

Jay points out "They ignored the possibility that [their concerns with the schools] could be taken care of, with the county’s guidance, once the charter people got rolling, as happens when any public school opens."

Why not address the concerns BEFORE accepting the progress, to minimize the possibility that they would have to close the school down? Perhaps a reason for the varying quality of charters across the country (and in DC - where a lot of charters are not so great, which Jay doesn't seem to mention) is that not enough oversight is given to the chartering process.

If Montgomery County has the best public schools in the country, one would hope/assume that they are the best at everything - and that they have the best and most selective charter authorizing process in the country. After all, kids only get one chance at an education - the school board has the obligation to do everything in its power to ensure that every school it has responsibility for (including any charters it may authorize) meet high standards.

(Of course, once I see the document explaining the board's rationale I might change my mind I may change my thoughts. But as of now, the essential attitude to solve the problem after you've started the school really rubs me the wrong way).

Posted by: AOB512 | February 17, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"...the local school board has the ability to shut down a charter school after it has opened"

"Why would the local school board allow a charter to open with thoughts that they might very well have to shut it down?"

---

I was referring to the more hysterical fears of teachers eating bees and such. Ironically, if that sort of thing went on at a traditional public school, it could not be shut down. In that sense, public charter schools are held to a much higher standard than traditional schools.

What proponents of charter schools in Montgomery County would like to see is an interactive process, where concerns are addressed through a two-way communication process, rather than the current "I apply, you reject" process. If, after actual discussion of the application occurs, there are issues found that cannot be resolved, by all means, the school board should reject the application.

Posted by: jonathan_krebs | February 17, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Joe Hawkins gives a history of Charter School applications in Montgomery County over the last 11 years:

http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2011/02/joe-hawkins-montgomery-county-charter.html

Posted by: jzsartucci | February 17, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I was referring to the more hysterical fears of teachers eating bees and such. Ironically, if that sort of thing went on at a traditional public school, it could not be shut down.

Posted by: jonathan_krebs
.........................
You really have strange ideas of public schools. If the incidents involving Ms. Rhee as a teacher were reported to the principal of the public school there would be immediate action.

The incident involving taping the mouths of children would have been viewed as child abuse with the need to call the police. The teacher would not be allowed to teach. Remember this incident occurred in the cafeteria so there is no question of she said, he said since there were witnesses.

Public schools are not corporations that simply dissolve over night.

The reality is that the taping was covered up at the charter school. I seriously believe Ms. Rhee would have been removed if the incident had been reported to the District since failure to act upon their part could have made them liable.

And by the way the trapping and eating by a bee would not be accepted as normal behavior. A public school principal would understand the liability if nothing was done after verifying that this occurred and a child was struck by Ms. Rhee.

The reality is that no parent with children in any schools would want for their children Ms. Rhee as a teacher if they knew of the eating a bee and taping incident.
........................
Instead of two way communication let the charter school actually describe the specific new ideas and innovations that they are proposing.

Let them also propose valid measurements of the effectiveness of these new ideas and innovations. The reality is that it is up to the proposers to provide a very thorough and detailed proposal to receive public funds.

The proposers need to prove that they can provide something of value that is not being provided by the District public schools.

The reality is that if charter school can only offer what is already available they should be turned down because of the large number of cases where public money was wasted on failed charter schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Left out of the Post's reporting on Mayor Vincent C. Gray's education transition committee report is a recommendation that "equitable resources" be provided DC Charter Schools. That seems like big news.

The report notes that charters school will "within several years, encompass 50 percent of all students in the District’s public schools."

From the report:
"Mayor-Elect Gray can use the “One City” frame to embrace both charter and traditional public school students fully. They are all “our” kids, whether they are educated in DCPS, public charter schools, or (for young children) community-based organizations. The city should clearly state that our mission is to educate every child to a high level, with equitable resources and equitable access to facilities, regardless of which type of public school they attend."

http://graytransition2010.org/pdf/Education.pdf

Posted by: frankb1 | February 17, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

jonathan_krebs,


You're being a little misleading with this implied argument: "Magnet schools 'cherry pick motivated students.' Should they be closed, too?"

One group openly discriminates based on gifted or special needs. Most would not cry foul that a magnet school only accepts those who are gifted in music or those who have Downs' Syndrome. However, charters discriminate in an entirely different manner. Their actions and their words do not match up. They say that they are open to ALL but behind closed doors, they practice the seedy type of discrimination by denying admittance based on motivation and test scores.

Your argument ignores the spectrum of discrimination being practiced when it lumps charters and magnets in the same pile.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 17, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Dana Tofig kindly sent me a good link to Jerry Weast's report on the two charters. Here it is. I will also imbed it in the column.

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2009-10/2010-0608/8.0%20Charter%20School%20Applications.pdf

Posted by: Jay Mathews | February 17, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I was referring to the more hysterical fears of teachers eating bees and such. Ironically, if that sort of thing went on at a traditional public school, it could not be shut down.

Posted by: jonathan_krebs
.........................
This is the problem with charter schools and the "reform" movement with their cries of accountability.

Where was the accountability of the principal of the charter school where Ms. Rhee taught?

The principal took no action and did not report the incidents to the District.

Like it or not Ms. Rhee as a teacher is the poster child for NOT having charter schools.

Interesting that jonathan_krebs uses "and such" so he does not have to mention the taping which according to Ms. Rhee:
"I was like, 'OK, take the tape off. I realized I had not told the kids to lick their lips beforehand...The skin is coming off their lips and they're bleeding. Thirty-five kids were crying."

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Dana Tofig kindly sent me a good link to Jerry Weast's report on the two charters. Here it is. I will also imbed it in the column.

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2009-10/2010-0608/8.0%20Charter%20School%20Applications.pdf

Posted by: Jay Mathews
........................
Great.

Now all we have to do is to have access to the proposals that those who want funds for a charter school can provide to you.

This way we can tell if the comments regarding the proposals are valid or not.

Hard to judge criticism of the opinion of some one who tasted a cake, if you have not tasted the cake yourself.

By the way I assume you already have access to the proposals or is it the case that you never read the proposals?

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

DHume1, at least in Maryland, actions such as what you are describing would be in violation of state law. According to the state public charter law, a public charter school:

9-102(3):Is open to all students on a space available basis and admits students on a lottery basis if more students apply than can be accommodated

9-102(8):Is subject to Federal and State laws prohibiting discrimination

If you're interested, I would encourage you to read about it: http://mlis.state.md.us/2003rs/billfile/sb0075.htm

Posted by: jonathan_krebs | February 17, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jonathan_krebs
........................
Great and where is the public law that charter schools have to keep their students until they graduate or the parents move out of the county.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

As a Global Garden board member (speaking on my own behalf, not necessarily that of the Board) I feel the need to answer some of the accusations surrounding our proposed school. The first one being that we are some sort of "corporation" out to profit from the state's money. We are, in fact, a group of parents and educators who feel that there are other ways to provide a great education to the children of Montgomery County and that not every child's needs are being met in the traditional public school system. I am a product of MCPS and can attest to the wonderful school system we have in this county. This is precisely why I believe it is a great place to add a charter school to our portfolio of public school offerings. Perhaps, then, we could finally put to rest the notion that charter schools are only needed in areas where the public schools are failing. They are, instead, a method by which we can offer choices for families who feel they would like an alternative to what is currently being offered.
As for profiting, I can guarantee that there is no money in this deal for us. We have been working tirelessly for over two years, on our own time, to put together this application and advocate on its behalf. The $550,000 grant that is in question is federal money, not state, it is simply distributed by the state Department of Education.
Global Garden would be open to all students, regardless of achievement, only by lottery. As for our proposal, we are specifically offering a K-8 school (not a model currently offered within the county) which would provide an International Baccalaureate Primary Years curriculum (only offered at one elementary school in the county which is only available to those students lucky enough to live within its district.) The IB PYP is an integrated teaching method which, “focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside.” (from the IB website http://www.ibo.org/pyp/ ) The proposal is not currently available online so Mr. Matthews would not have been able to link to it.
Just in the same way that no one is claiming that charter schools are a “panacea” for all that ails us, it is also not fair to look at the actions of a single teacher, or school, and paint all charters with the same negative brush. Charter schools are held to the same, if not higher, standards as their traditional counterparts because they must meet the same standards, shown through testing. The charter would be held by the county and would therefore be revocable if the school does not meet the high standards set by the county and state (and, I would argue, we would hold ourselves to an even higher standard since our own children would also be attending.) We don’t ask failing traditional schools to return the money if they fail, if anything we throw more money at them to get them up to speed.
We are not looking to be approved just because we asked to be. We are simply asking for a fair shake. Thanks.

Posted by: adelsole | February 17, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

This brings to mind another exceptional Washington Post special investigative report that could use updating.

Fixing D.C.'s Schools: The Charter Experiment

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/specials/charter/index.html

Staff writers Dan Keating, David Fallis and April Witt were online Monday, Dec. 15 at noon ET to take your questions about The Post's look at D.C. charter schools

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/12/12/DI2008121203256.html


Do Keating, Fallis, and Witt still work for the Washington Post?

Posted by: frankb1 | February 17, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

For frankb1--- People have been coming and going at a rapid pace at the Post the last few years, so I had to check the newsroom roster. All three of those reporters are wonderful. Keating and Fallis are still with us but Witt is not. I think she has done some freelance for us, however.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | February 17, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

And for Cal---remember, they pay me to editorialize. If I am not offering opinions, I am gone.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | February 17, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

As for our proposal, we are specifically offering a K-8 school (not a model currently offered within the county) which would provide an International Baccalaureate Primary Years curriculum (only offered at one elementary school in the county which is only available to those students lucky enough to live within its district.) The IB PYP is an integrated teaching method which, “focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside.”

Posted by: adelsole
...............................
One I would rather see the proposal.

What are the number of students?

What are the full cost and where is this money coming from?

I assume that you are not intending to open a school for K-8 with students and teachers for all these classes on one half million dollars.

What specific existing schools in the world are offering this proposed curriculum and what are their characteristics? Public, private.

All of this information should be in your proposal.

And of course there is the factor that you are proposing a curriculum that is not commonly taught in the United States, so unless you have a supply of teachers lined up with experience, in this curriculum which I doubt, there is a problem of how this problem will be resolved. As any one should be aware the availability of teachers is important for any school while you are proposing a school where there will be a problem of obtaining teachers knowledgeable in the curriculum that you want to offer, from day one.

There are certainly questions regarding what you have provided.

You should provide access to the full proposal. I assume the proposal will contain salaries,etc. for all individuals that will receive monetary compensation.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

jonathan_krebs,

You haven't actually addressed the point that I brought up, Jonathan. Bad, bad, bad form indeed to change to a related topic but not address the topic that was brought up by you in the first place. I'm not a teacher, but I give you a D for that.

But I will follow along with this vein of argumentation just for the fun of it.

You do know that several states already have similar laws on their books. Look them up. In fact, almost all charter schools state something similar to Maryland's laws in their personal charters.

The problem is that their laws SAY one thing, but their actions are quite different. The evidence for this type of seedy discrimination is hard to prove in a court of law because charters usually claim "other reasons" for not including the student in their charter school. There have been many studies done that confirm that the make-up of local students in the area do not match the students enrolled at the charter. Yes, there are some exceptions so please don't point them out to me. I have read about and personally seen some good charters schools that contradict this point. However, they are in the minority, Jonathon.

In the best of all possible worlds, charters would just take the kids that fall within its borders. Close the neighboring school that is not functioning or turn it into the charter. Now that's the way it should be. However, Jonathon, that's not what's happening. There are those who talk about equality in education, but at every step they are trying to capitalize themselves on the backs of children, creating new areas of inequality in the process. The question for you is what will you create for Maryland's children with these charters.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 17, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2009-10/2010-0608/8.0%20Charter%20School%20Applications.pdf
...........................
Readers should read the above.

A board and not the superintendent decided not to approve the charter.

There was a question and answer program with the proposers with the board before a decision was made.

The section regarding the charter that wants to introduce a IB PYP type curriculum contains specific problems that the board found with this proposed curriculum.

I did not read further since I see that the claims of Mr. Mathews are totally bogus.

It is probably also now evident to all that Mr. Mathews neither read the proposal or the decision of the board before his bogus claims.

............................
It would really interesting to see the actual proposals. Mr. Mathews mentions one half million dollars but my assumption is that this is only a starter payment and I would be interested to know what the full costs are for one year.
....................
I believe that adelsole was ingenuous since there was no mention regarding the review which he or she must have been aware of.

Apparently from adelsole
The $550,000 grant that is in question is federal money, not state, it is simply distributed by the state Department of Education.

Based upon this Mr. Mathews comment:

"The Maryland State Department of Education shares my puzzlement. It looked carefully at the two most recent Montgomery charter applicants,"

is totally false since there was no need to look at or judge the specifics of the proposals. The proposal was not even checked for the proper form by the state since this had to be done by the board of the district.

Mr. Mathews may feel free to express his opinion totally regarding fact but I have just finished reading The Great Bridge by David McCullough and in the 1800's it was common for columnists to write totally biased articles while obtaining payment from business interests to do so.

This is not a claim that Mr. Mathews is doing the same now but one has to wonder at a totally bias article that would enrich others from public funds.

Probably though this is simply another case where Mr. Mathews feels no responsibility to be factual or honest.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"remember, they pay me to editorialize"

Really? Then how come the last time we talked about an issue, you insisted that you wanted "the facts, just the facts". I asked you what you would opine in the instance that a teacher told her kids that "nobody wanted them except me", and you said that you would need an actual fact of someone being reprimanded--implication was, of course, that you needed facts, and wouldn't offer opinions.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | February 17, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

There really are many reasons public school employees do not appreciate charters. Perhaps first and foremost is that they take public money and operate under special circumstances. This creates a situation where they attract students whose parents are more committed to education and to supporting the efforts of the school at home, such as insisting homework be done.

When the charters "bounce" those who don't make it, they land back in their neighborhood school that is tasked with dealing with issues the charter has washed their hands of.

Then, the neighborhood public school, which is not permitted to create the cirsumstances whereby it can attract the most committed families,and cannot expel students who fail to tow the line, is COMPARED to the charter school in achievement scores. The playing field is grossly uneven.

This does not even touch upon the fact many charters have corporate sponsors that lavish extra funding upon them, or that some are even forprofit businesses.

There is little reason for public school districts to open their arms to most charter schools.

Posted by: silverstarent2003 | February 17, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

@adelesole:


What is your current plan for Emotional Support and Low Incidence populations at the proposed charter?

Please provide a link to your current charters that have these populations. Thanks.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | February 17, 2011 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Montgomery County spent $15002 per pupil in 2007-2008

At one point it is necessary to view the cost of public schools.

A county pays say $16,000 per student in a public school system , but to reduplicate the services provided by the public schools by a new school the cost would be far higher.

The public school system has older physical school that aside from maintenance are not cost a great deal. In many cases the bonds for these schools have been paid off. Also in many cases the Federal government made payments for the new construction.

So a new school would have to pay simply in physical buildings costs that are not paid currently by the public schools.

Then there is the question of chairs, desk, black boards, computer, and a great deal of items. Most of these items have also already been paid for while a new school would have to pay for all of these items.

The reality is that if a new school is only getting $16,000 per student a great deal of this money would have to be spent on items that the existing public schools do not have to spend this money on. It would not be inappropriate to assume that out of the $16,000 a new school would have to spend one half and only have $8,000 to spend per student while the public schools have close to $16,000 to spend per student.

Simply based upon this it is absurd to start a charter school in a county such as Montgomery that provides an excellent education in their public school system.

Any such charter school would have to show overwhelming reasons to start such a school that would have such a disadvantage in spending in regard to students.
..................................

One would really like to see the proposals of charter schools to obtain a true picture of spending on a charter school. I believe that these proposals should be open to public viewing immediately upon submission for consideration. There is absolutely no need for secrecy regarding these proposals and Federal law should require making these documents publicly available.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

"remember, they pay me to editorialize"

Really? Then how come the last time we talked about an issue, you insisted that you wanted "the facts, just the facts". I asked you what you would opine in the instance that a teacher told her kids that "nobody wanted them except me", and you said that you would need an actual fact of someone being reprimanded--implication was, of course, that you needed facts, and wouldn't offer opinions.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier
..........................
Mr. Mathews concept is that for readers it is always "just the facts" while for himself it is always "just the opinion without any facts".

Yes Mr. Mathews gets paid to provide this dribble but the reality is that he seriously damages public education. But perhaps Mr. Mathews believes that since others opportunists makes money on public education, why should not he make money of public education.

Sad to know that Mr. Mathews was a graduate of Harvard.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

bsall.-- sincere thanks for your honesty that you live in a school district with great schools. Even tho u do not live in Washington, DC, you are obviously knowledgeable. I learn from some of your posts, provided I can last all the way through them!

DHume1-- pls avoid a hissy fit when someone--anyone--does not respond to your line of "thinking." We've seen blogue oberfuerhers come and go from these comment boards, and the unresponsive rabble (the rest of us) will probably outlast your commanding presence and psychological evaluations. Keep the faith, or whatever it is you hold dear.

Posted by: axolotl | February 17, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I should mention that our proposal also includes an extended school day and extended school year--neither option is available currently in MCPS.

Posted by: adelsole | February 17, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Something not mentioned.

Apparently Montgomery county is a county where those who live in the county pay the highest share of public education costs through property taxes.

This is not a poverty area where the residents are not paying the largest share of expenses.

The reality is that residents of Montgomery county have already made a choice regarding education since they have chosen to live in a county with high property taxes that funds their public schools.

The reality of a charter school receiving funds directly from the residents without their consent is totally undemocratic. If such a charter school wants to receive these funds they should not apply to the state, but they should place such a proposition on the ballot of a local election to decide whether the direct funds of the residents that normally go to public schools should be diverted to the charter school.

It is interesting that those in Washington D.C. who pretend that they are so concerned about the funds of taxpayers are trying to force Americans to directly pay the funds for charter schools without a vote from these Americans.

Time to recognize that charter schools and selection by lottery should not be forced upon areas where Americans pay the major cost for educating their children.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I should mention that our proposal also includes an extended school day and extended school year--neither option is available currently in MCPS.

Posted by: adelsole
..................
Put it on the ballot in your county since your neighbors pay for the schools.

I can see any reason why the full proposal was not made available on your website.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Polliwog,

"Hissy fit." Really? Perhaps arrogant or condescending might "fit." But I'm certainly not prone to outbursts in behavior. I suggest that you stay away from the psychological assessments next time. You just get them so wrong all the time. Focus on the words on the screen and not some figment or fantasy that you've created in your mind to make yourself feel better.

BTW, you're welcome to outlast me in the blog world. It is a crown that I really don't want anyway. Wear it with pride, axolotl.

Posted by: DHume1 | February 17, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

email to blogs@washingtonpost.com
Class Struggle Why do great school systems fear charters?

A review of this article will show that Mr. Mathews made accusations against a public figure that were false and attempted to have public funds used inappropriately and counter to existing law.

A review of the article will reveal numerous falsehoods.

It is obvious that Mr. Mathews was contacted by parties attempting to obtain public funds through a proposal, and that Mr. Mathews attempted to use his influence as a columnist to wrongly award these public funds even though the proposal of the parties concerned had been fairly judged.

The Washington Post should determine whether it is the policy to allow their columnist to attempt to wrongly award public funds contrary to procedures established by law.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I hereby withdraw any attention to bsall., on the basis of her (mega-loony) 8:06pm comment. Best of luck, madame.

Posted by: axolotl | February 17, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

The same email sent to blogs@washingtonpost.com was also sent to ombudsman@washpost.com.

The reality is that there should be a total statement of retraction of this article by the Washington Post.

Mr. Mathews may not have been offered any payment for acting in this manner but he definitely intended to use his influence in the wrongly awarding of public funds.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 17, 2011 8:11 PM | Report abuse

adelsole wrote: I should mention that our proposal also includes an extended school day and extended school year--neither option is available currently in MCPS.
_________________________
Does your proposal intend to pay teachers in your school at their regular per diem/ hourly rate of pay for the additional time worked? This is one issue that occurred in Baltimore City schools where some charters (I believe they may have been KIPP) did not want to pay the teachers the additional hours but rather a lower rate.

Posted by: musiclady | February 17, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

This article is missing a crucial link, that of the DECISION of the STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION on the denial of these Charter School applications.

http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2011/01/breaking-state-board-reverses-and.html

It is clear from some of the comments that readers are not aware that an actual State Board of Education Opinion exists on the rejection of these Charter applications by the MCPS Board of Education.

Posted by: jzsartucci | February 17, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

It is clear from some of the comments that readers are not aware that an actual State Board of Education Opinion exists on the rejection of these Charter applications by the MCPS Board of Education.

Posted by: jzsartucci
...................
That is because the proposers contacted Mr. Mathews to have him use his influence as a columnist to reverse the decision of the board that disapproved their proposal to obtain public funds.

Mr. Mathews claims:
Montgomery County schools spokesman Dana Tofig acknowledged that the resolutions “did not specify reasons for denial.” He noted they are not required to do so under state law.

But the document that did not accept the proposal contains detailed information:
"Panelists raised a number of concerns about the GGPCS applicant. In particular, there were significant concerns raised regarding the academic design proposed by the GGPCS applicants, including several foundational philosophical concerns....

And these concerns in detail run for several pages.

So the idea that reasons were not provided is a total falsehood.

The claim of Mr. Mathews regarding "that the resolutions “did not specify reasons for denial.”
is pure nonsense in regard to the detail of the concerns in the report.

Given the numerous distortions and falsehood it is not even possible to trust the word of Mr. Mathews in regard to his claim of what another individual said to Mr. Matthews.

The following claim of Mr. Mathews at best could be call distortion and at worse as an outright attempt to deceive:
"The Maryland State Department of Education shares my puzzlement. It looked carefully at the two most recent Montgomery charter applicants, Global Garden Public Charter School and Crossway Montessori Charter School, and promised them a $550,000 grant each once they got their charter approved."

The procedure for these proposals is for the state to receive the proposal and simply pass it along to the District that is totally responsible for approving or disproving the proposal. The state does not review the proposal as and so can not have any "puzzlement" if the proposal is rejected.

Of course readers are confused since Mr. Mathews deliberately used his position as a columnist to attempt by distortions to allow individuals to obtain public funds after a detailed review had been completed that specified in detail why these individuals should not be approved for public funds.

Time for the Washington Post to consider that if the distortions and falsehoods of Mr. Mathews were successful the Washington Post public funds would have been wrongly dispersed to private individuals.

Mr. Mathews stepped over the line.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 18, 2011 12:06 AM | Report abuse

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2009-10/2010-0608/8.0%20Charter%20School%20Applications.pdf
..................................
READ THE ABOVE AND THE DETAILED ISSUESS FOR TURNING DOWN THE PROPOSAL OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 18, 2011 12:16 AM | Report abuse

THE REAL STORY

Two applications for charter schools in Montgomery country were not approved after an extensive review.

A memorandum of nine pages that included an executive summary was released containing various concerns which were described in detail of the panel that reviewed the applications.

Based upon these concerns the he panel recommended the Board of Education not approve a public charter for either of the applicants.

District public education system have the full responsibility regarding the approval of application for charter schools.

This is quite appropriate for Montgomery county since the residents of this county pay through property taxes the majority of public education costs.

The majority cost of any charter school in Montgomery would not be paid for either by state or federal funds but from the property taxes of the residents of Montgomery county.

The public schools of Montgomery county provide an excellent education to the children of the county and provide an excellent education to low-income children that reside in the county.
.....................
Quite a different story from the travesty of distortions and falsehood of Mr. Mathews. Mr. Mathews also failed to mention that unlike most districts with charter schools the county would be paying the majority of the costs of charter schools and not the federal government.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 18, 2011 1:54 AM | Report abuse

This might be one reason:

http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/02/imagine-teacher-fired-for-bumper.html

Posted by: chicogal | February 18, 2011 2:27 AM | Report abuse

While I support charter schools, I believe the anti-charter comments make some compelling arguments.

#1. Public charter schools should “meet a need that is not already being met,” “provide some service that is not already being provided,” and “focus on students whose problems are not being handled adequately by their current school.” I agree. So do the parents who transfer their children to charter schools. That’s why they do it.

#2. Public charter schools should be “closed down when they are seen to run poor schools” and the people running them should be held “personally accountable.” I agree. For charter schools, that sanction is automatic. When a charter school is seen to be a poor school, parents send their children to better charter schools or the regular public schools, public money follows the child, the poor charter school goes out of business, their teachers and administrators look for other work, and the building gets taken over by a better school that needs the space.

#3. We should not “gamble public money on charter schools that may be a total waste of public funds.” I agree. The D.C. Public Charter School Board addresses that through an application process that requires charter school applicants to articulate a thorough, well-considered business and academic plan, and they grant charters only to applicants who do that well. DC Public Schools used to be an alternative chartering authority, but they mostly chartered bad schools that failed, so applicants went to DC PCSB instead, and DCPS finally quit. Not surprisingly, regular public schools don’t have the desire or the competence to launch strong competitors. So this is an argument for an independent chartering authority like the DC Public Charter School Board.

#4. Public charter schools attract “motivated students whose parents are more committed to education and to supporting the efforts of the school at home, such as insisting homework be done.” I haven’t seen any evidence that this is so, but it may well be true. The regular public schools are indifferent or hostile to meeting the needs of these students – curriculum, instructional grouping, and school goals all aim for a low “proficiency” standard – so parents of these students would naturally seek out alternatives. I think that is a good thing, especially since public charter schools are almost entirely focused on low-income populations that can’t afford private school.

Posted by: jhoven | February 18, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

The current trend in the charter world is to make a show of calling for accountability and oversight -- after many years of fighting tooth and nail against accountability and oversight.

Accountability and oversight begins with school districts' using their judgment about whether a charter is viable. Jay, I don't think you can have it both ways -- either charters should have no accountability and get no oversight or districts have to be allowed to use their judgment, and without being bashed by openly partisan journalists with a long record of advocating for charter schools.

10 years ago, my school district, San Francisco Unified, was bashed by editorial writers around the nation for moving to exercise oversight on a charter school run by then-hyped, now-fizzled for-profit Edison Schools Inc. Since then, I've been suggesting that editorial boards be put in charge of approving and overseeing charter schools, since they clearly view themselves better qualified than school district officials. I don't think charter-school management is covered in journalism school, but many journalists seem to feel they're up for it. Ready to take it on, Jay?

Posted by: CarolineSF | February 18, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Of course the district is afraid. Every monopoly is afraid of choice. The parents and students are not supposed to be making choices that the district is making for them. With choice comes genuine accountability, and most people are afraid of THAT.

Posted by: k12reboot_com | February 18, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Of course D.C. schools can benefit from charters, but a charter that might be successful there is "been there done that" in Montgomery County. MC has a higher standard and there are already many choices already available. That is what makes MC very unique and it should be a model for the U.S. since the whole package in MC works better than most places. If a charter school comes to MC, it better be a top notch comparison to our other highly acclaimed magnets.

Jay, don't you realize the whole issue going on here is not about charters at all, but about a power struggle between MSDE and MCPS? MSDE wants MCPS on a platter to dish out to all the counties, and MCPS must guard their prize to keep it from being diluted. Please don't help them serve the appetizer!

Posted by: Resilentmom | February 20, 2011 1:26 AM | Report abuse

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