For the last decade, charter schools have been pretty much a nuisance to the public school lobby. Like a squeaky door hinge, it’s been a manageable distraction for public school advocates as they have been able to use the fear of them to horsewhip the legislature for more funding while knowing full well that the Democratic leadership beholden to them would scuttle any real effort at reform. They could even feign some support for charter schools and play both sides of the issue, straddling the fence for political gain while never really wanting reform.
Now, things are different.
It’s a virtual guarantee that some form of real charter school legislation will come out this year.
The truth of the matter is that charter schools are already working. Just the mere real threat of charter schools have thrown public school advocates into a frenzy as they are already rallying and attempting to justify their own performance. They have never really had to do that in a meaningful way. Now superintendents, principals and teacher groups are arguing which areas should be exempted from it.
Charter schools are a reality that public school advocates are staring down the barrel of, and they are trembling.
While local interests groups can make micro-arguments and say “look how good this school or district works without charter schools,” the truth of the matter is that in a macro-sense, our K-12 education system in the state remains an absolute disaster.
What are we afraid of? Being more successful?
With billions spent and nearly $0.63 of every state dollar spent on education for over a decade, we have not improved substantially at ALL.
Kingfish did a great job to put in context the current performance of Jackson Public Schools.
Our neighbor to the south, Louisiana, has had a fantastic experience with charter schools, especially after Hurricane Katrina in inner-city New Orleans. Arkansas’s KIPP schools have also been a standout. Both have successfully and repeatedly bridged the achievement gap across racial and income groups. Support has become largely bipartisan and the results speak for themselves. In a 2009 Stanford research study, Louisiana Charter Schools were rated an unqualified success.
Support for charter schools isn’t a black/white issue, though you can expect black lawmakers who support this (like Rep. Chuck Espy) to be assailed by many in the public schools lobby. It’s a green issue, as in who controls the money. The keys to their kingdoms are at risk.
The long knives are about to come out as the public education lobby will use ANYTHING they can to fight back on this. Expect it.
Let’s just hope that this can ultimately be made to be an issue about how to educate students with the best possible results with the farthest reach throughout the state.