As part of the State of the Union speech, President Trump declared that “government schools” are failing. Failure reflects leadership in an organization.
First education was a responsibility given to the states not the federal government in the beginning. The feds began oversight early 70’s with the enacting of Title IX in 1972, followed by PL94-142 in 1975. From that point until today the oversight from the feds has increased more and more. In 2002, under George W. Bush, No Child Left Behind became the law of the land for education until 2015. It was then replaced by Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which is currently in effect.
In 1992, the first Charter School was open. Since then 44 state have enacted laws allowing the operation of them. The general philosophy of charter schools when they were first conceived was that they would act as an “instructional lab” to try different instructional methods to help a variety of learners. In the beginning the idea was admirable until “people with money” started turning them into “for profit” ventures. Since that point the majority have been mediocre at best. Many have been “cream skimmers” and only accepting select students.
A study by the University of Stanford has shown that most charter school are equal to or less productive than their neighborhood public schools. The study showed:
Authors of the Stanford study compared charter students with demographically similar public-school peers, and found that 37 percent of charter school students posted scores on state math assessments that were significantly worse than their public-school peers. Forty-six percent of charter school students achieved math scores that were indistinguishable from their public-school counterparts.
That means that only 17 percent of charter school students — roughly one out of every six — performed better than public school students on state math assessments. In fact, charter school students were more than twice as likely to post math scores that were significantly worse than their public-school peers.
IDEA charter schools were planning to spend $2 million dollars to lease a private jet and had already spent $400 thousand on San Antonio Spurs tickets. If a charter school has that much extra money laying around then they are doing something wrong like not paying their staff properly or not providing the proper services for their student. Furthermore, if a public-school superintendent had tried to do this he would have been arrested for theft. I have not seen any reports of legal action taken against the owner of this charter school chain.
In Texas, the funding of both public and charter schools is through local property taxes and state funding. There is a single pot of money from which both are funded. When a charter school opens in the same neighborhood as a public school it becomes a parasite. It takes valuable resources from the public school and harms it ability to provide the proper programs for a well-rounded school. Charter schools tend to focus on area that have large populations of poor and/or minority students. They tend to focus on the “cream of the crop” students to ensure that their numbers look good. Even by doing so, they struggle to out-perform the public schools in their area.
In the State of Texas, the Governor and Lt. Governor have been outwardly hostile towards public schools. They have presented legislation repeatedly that favors charter schools and introduces vouchers. The people of Texas have accepted charter schools but have clearing stated that they do not want a voucher program but yet Lt. Dan keeps trying to force them on the people. By diverting fund to charters schools and other education programs the public school are less equipped to accomplish their mission.
At the federal level, President Trump, VP Mike Pence, Education Secretary DeVos and Senator Ted Cruz (of Texas, Ugh!) have all made statement the last couple of days about forcing more charter schools and at the same time claiming “government schools” are failing. They are failing because you want them to fail. If you put a plant that requires lots of sunlight in a darkroom for an extended time period, the it will die. The same applies to public education, if you deprive it of nutrients (money) then they will die also. It becomes self-fulfilling prophecy, you make your prediction come true.
If you want to make public schools better:
- Then put policies in places to limit class sizes. The higher the poverty level of a school, the larger the class sizes. In wealthier district they spend the extra money to keep class sizes smaller.
- Reduce or eliminate the excessive testing requirements.
- Stop relying strictly on data, look at the students as humans. A single day of testing does not define a student.
- Speak only about public schools in a positive manner, never in the negative.
Public schools are the best way for students of poverty to change their situation. A good education can open many doors and provide many opportunities. Schools that are failing test are predominately schools of poor and minority children.
90% of the students in the United States attend public schools and deserve your respect and attention. It is time for you to give it to them.
David R Taylor 32 Year Teacher, Coach and Principal