Quoting here from this week’s Citizens for Public Schools’ “News You Can Use about Our Schools”:
“This Wednesday, May 21, the House is expected to take up a bill that includes lifting the cap on charter school spending. House Bill 3984 raises the cap on charter tuition as a percentage of a district’s net school spending from 18% to 23% (yes, this means that current law allows up to 18% of school spending in certain districts can be diverted to charter schools, although for most communities it is still 9%). The higher cap — and the proposed increase in the cap — applies only to districts that score the lowest on MCAS, which, no surprise, correlates with the state’s lowest income districts, as well as the districts that spend less on their schools. (Significantly, some of these same districts have strong growth scores, and yet, they are still the targets of charter operators; Boston is one of these districts). If you have an opinion about this proposed change to the charter school law, you may want to contact your state representative right away.”
I know there are strong feelings on BMG about this issue. Now’s your chance to weigh in with your elected representatives.
For more, read Clive McFarlane’s column in the Worcester Telegram, which includes this quote from Senator Pat Jehlen:
[Senator Jehlen] noted that charter school funding, which is close to half a billion dollars this year, has increased by $40 million over the past two years. The increase is expected to spiral, she noted, as existing charter schools continue to expand and as others come online. The state, also, she noted, is being asked to raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the commonwealth.
“Before we expand (charter schools) let’s make sure we have enough to meet the other priorities in our communities,” she said. “Let’s think about if that is the best way to spend new money in the next several years.”
On Friday, Ms. Jehlen told me that instead of creating more charter schools, she would prefer the state spend its limited education resources on providing universal preschool and expanded kindergarten programs.
“Those have been proven as the most reliable paths to educational excellence,” she said.
We can do better than draining more and more funds from our district schools, which are left with most of our students with significant disabilities and English language learners. We can do better than move further down the road to a two-tier school system, separate and unequal. We can do better by investing in the schools that serve all our students so that they can better meet their individual needs.
Last Wednesday, CPS hosted Finnish educator and author Pasi Sahlberg, who described how Finland has gone about its successful school reforms, very different from the U.S. embrace of corporate methods. The first thing he said that is unique about Finnish schools is this: Finland has a school system that is based on 9 years of compulsory and comprehensive schooling that is the same for all children. There is no other system in the world where all kids have the same school experience in their own neighborhood. They don’t have charters, independent schools, etc. They have a few specialty schools such as Waldorf, etc., but very few. Most schools in Finland are part of the public school system. It was created about 40 years ago. All private schools were abolished. Finland insisted that every school must be a good school.
Pasi said Finland based its reforms on American ideas, like those of progressive education reformer John Dewey and others. If we really wanted to commit to school equity and excellence, we could do the same.