Thursday, March 25, 2010

Charters Want Expedited Approval

Charter advocates have enlisted the support of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) to sponsor legislation that would allow new charter school proposals to bypass both local school systems and BESE for approval. According to the Advocate story this week on HB 1154, Charter Change Pushed, all the charter proposal would need is approval of a special commission appointed by the Governor composed of a majority of charter school advocates. This new commission would be a novel way of bypassing democratically elected boards in the funding of private schools with public money. This means the taxpayers would no longer have any say in the running of certain schools even though their tax dollars would fund such schools on a per pupil basis. This would be like an outside security company teaming up with a small community within a parish and demand that taxes be diverted to pay for their “policing” services. Such funding would be diverted from the local Sheriffs, city councils, or police juries from funds previously used to pay for deputies or police. In addition the state would chip in for supplemental pay for these private security forces!

Of course our local sheriffs and parish and city governments would never tolerate such an infringement on their authority. Yet this is what LABI wants to do to local school boards.

This idea is further complicated by the fact that much of the local taxes collected for schools are dedicated by action of the voters to certain purposes such as teacher and school employee salary supplements or class size reductions. These would be ignored when a charter school takes over local funds, because such charters would operate independently of the local School Board. This proposal is even more amazing when you consider that most charter schools in Louisiana are set up by out-of-state organizations that can pay their executives any salaries they want partially with our tax monies. Its like the Wall Street Investment banks who feed at the public trough and pay their executives obscene salaries.

Many Public Schools In Louisiana Provide Excellent Education
Much of the current push for charter schools in Louisiana and other states is fed by the perception that public schools are inferior to private schools. This is a myth promoted vigorously often with the help of certain news media, who favor privatization of schools. The fact is that any school run by reasonably competent educators when they are allowed to select their students from a pool of wealthy or middle class homes with positive parental support can show good results. This concept has been proven all over the state by many excellent public magnet schools as well as private and parochial schools.

What really counts is when a school or school system can open its doors to all students rich and poor, of all races and levels of parental involvement and still give every student a fair chance to succeed. The citizens of the city of Zachary, Louisiana where I live are fortunate to have such a school system. Yes, it helps that this is a relatively compact community with no extensive busing of students, with high parental involvement and public pride in our school system. This situation is made even better by the fact that recently, parents have been moving their families here just so their children can enroll in what they feel is an excellent public school system. In this way, success feeds on success. But even so, my experience in Zachary goes back to the 1970s when court ordered desegregation forced the consolidation of the formerly black and white schools in Zachary with a school population that was approximately 50% black and white. This is when an exceptionally strong educator was appointed principal of the new consolidated high school. Jerry Boudreaux was able and willing to use the time tested principles of discipline and insistence on an attitude by all students and teachers that the school was there only to provide a good education to all students who wanted to learn. He fought many battles to weed out the few students or faculty who did not support this concept. As a result, the climate was set over many years for an ever improving school system. Unfortunately, many school principals today, partly because of State Department pressure to curtail student suspensions; do not have the same opportunity to build a successful school. Full credit should also be given to present Superintendent Warren Drake and his school board for continuing and improving on that legacy in all schools in the Zachary Community school system. Superintendent Drake continues the firm policy on discipline and focus on sound education principles. In addition, the entire staff of every school is constantly reminded that students and parents must be treated at all times as valued customers. That’s how you build a successful public school system!