A bill that would toughen oversight of charter schools would also award more money to charters with proven track records and allow them to access capital funding from the state.
The bill’s supporters say it will help successful charters grow while holding them more responsible, but some critics worry it could take resources from traditional public schools. They also say some of the oversight measures don’t go far enough.
Gov. Jack Markell supports the bill and says it mixes measures to better hold charters accountable with efforts to give them more ability to succeed.
“This bill has the support of many stakeholders, from DSEA to the Charter School movement,” Markell said.
“Not everybody got what they wanted. But we think this bill is an important step to improving the charter system in Delaware.”
House Bill 165, sponsored by Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, is expected to be debated in committee on Wednesday, would create a “Charter School Performance Fund,” which the Department of Education would use to dole out extra funds to charters it believes have “a proven track record of success.”
That fund would be subject to state appropriations and would be limited to no more than $5 million a year. The General Assembly’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee has already approved $2 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, making the fund a part of Markell’s operating budget.Let's do this seriatem:
1. Governor Markell continues to wage war against the traditional public schools in Delaware. Let's think about this: in a budget wherein there is no money to prevent large lay-offs of teachers and other classroom specialists, Markell has no problem creating a $2-5 million slush fund for charter schools. He also had no problem choosing computers (to the tune of $5 million) for reporting high-stakes test scores over classroom teachers. He's already signed off on allow charters to be "separate but equal" in keeping unused transportation funds, which is illegal for traditional public schools. And he continues one of the most robust programs of corporate welfare in the United States by budgeting $29 million to give away to multi-billion-dollar corporations whose revenues are nearly 100 times that of the State of Delaware. Look at that quote again, "This bill is an important step to improving the charter system in Delaware." One wonders when Governor Markell will find it in his heart (or in his checkbook) to support improving the traditional public school system in Delaware.
2. Earl Jaques proves, despite his support for single-payer health care, that reports of his being a "progressive" Democrat are wildly exaggerated. Now I'm no progressive, but I believe in truth in advertising. Representatives like John Kowalko and Paul Baumbach actually ARE progressives, and actually try to act consistently with their beliefs. I can respect them for that even when I disagree with them. But by introducing this bill, Jaques joins Senator Dave Sokola in becoming just another political tool in the box of the education reform movement. Nobody should believe for a minute that Jaques actually wrote this bill--it came direct from the governor's untouchable charter schools work group, and it has Rebecca Taber's DNA all over it. The only way we will be able to tell whether Jaques is a whore or a prostitute on this one is whether or not he gets paid.
3. DSEA is, according to Governor Markell, a "stakeholder" in favor of diverting yet more money into the charter school system where, by definition, the state teacher's union cannot have members, representation, or influence? This is, quite honestly, just the latest occasion in which the state leadership of DSEA has proven quite conclusively that it neither (a) consults with nor (b) represents the interests of its member teachers. Why not just officially change the name to Delaware State Education Lapdog Association and be done with it?
4. Finally, the Charter School movement proves that, all bad press aside, it can flex its muscles with the best of them. I support charter schools. My twins attend a charter school. But the original premise of charter schools was that the freedom from regulation would allow them to do more with less, to be creative instead of cost-intensive. They would be lean, hungry animals, constantly on the move and seeking every resource for their kids while hiring world-class faculties and turning out educational miracles. Turns out that being lean and hungry gets old after awhile, and that what they want now is BOTH freedom from regulation AND all the money, too. The Charter School Network understands what most of you don't: a high percentage of the people who sit in the General Assembly (and on the staffs of key decision makers), as well as a high percentage of the people with deep pockets for political contributions (both D and R), send their kids to charter schools and could actually give a rip less about poor black kids at Bancroft Elementary School in the middle of Wilmington. They understand that neither blogs nor newspaper coverage nor citizen input matters when you have the Governor, faux-progressives like Earl Jaques (D-Charter School Network), and the Joint Finance Committee on your side.
Please remember, folks, that budgets represent the choices that we as the State of Delaware are making about our priorities.
Jack Markell, Earl Jaques, DSEA, and the Charter School Network are pretty clear on the fact that the budget process is a Social Darwinian struggle for resources, that as far as they are concerned the traditional public school system represents the late and unlamented passenger pigeon.