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A principal’s perspective on charter school bill

There were several compelling speakers Tuesday when the House Education Committee considered Senate Bill 8,  the Republican proposal to dramatically increase the number of charter schools and to set up a powerful new charter school commission that would operate almost as a parallel school system.

One of them was Travis Collins, the principal of Meadowbrook Elementary School in Haywood County. Here is part of what he told the committee. It sums up the problems with the GOP charter plan very succinctly.

I don’t think any of us are opposed to the idea of creating and cultivating vibrant learning communities that meet the needs of all of our children.  Unfortunately we do not believe that Senate bill 8 does that.  Instead it would siphon tens of millions of dollars from traditional public schools and give access to money that our families raise through our various fundraising funds to charter schools. 

Furthermore it would limit student access by failing to require transportation, food services or guaranteed enrollment for students with special needs as other publicly funded schools must provide.

 I want to believe that the authors of Senate bill 8 crafted it to provide more opportunities for the children of our state.  As someone who has devoted the last 16 years of his life to public education, I can tell you that it simply does not.

18 Comments

  1. Alex

    March 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Why is Arne Duncan promoting charter schools so vigorously then ?

  2. Alex

    March 9, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I would seriously question why some elementary school principal from a small rural county would even be quoted on the subject ? Other than his own personal feeling, I don’t see his relevance at all !

  3. Mae

    March 9, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Why would any public school principal, teacher, parent or student not be relevant on the subject? How are you relevant on the subject?

  4. Jeff S

    March 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Alex, have you actually heard Mr Duncan discuss charter schools?

    He has a keen interest in holding charter schools to the highest standards and encourages charters to address the issues of low income students, english learners, creaming (charters tending to take only the best students). I believe that he wants them to succeed on their merits alone.

    I have a concern that many in this state (not the parents, but the politicians, the lobbyists and the rich trying to pull the strings) have other agendas. For some, the long term goal is to do away with public education. For others, they are just looking for a way to reduce the budget. Nowhere do I hear the Art Pope’s or the Republicans pushing charter schools discussing the actual education of our children. It’s either a budget exercise or a political agenda. I’m sorry, but when someone with an undisclosed agenda wants to setup a system with independent oversight, I get nervous. I think you should too.

    That’s the difference between Duncan and what’s going on locally. For the record, I am not anti-charter school. I just cannot trust the motivations of many of the locals pushing for them.

  5. Jeff S

    March 9, 2011 at 10:31 am

  6. House

    March 9, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Seriously? So you support federally funded schools that are allowed to discriminate and accept specific subgroups of students, while at the same time taking money away from those students to provide them with an EQUAL and APPROPRIATE education. Are you aware that President Obama recognized that special education has never been funded the way it should have been? I think it just makes more sense to use the money that we have to change and improve our current methods and keep increasing differentiation within our public education classrooms.

  7. James

    March 9, 2011 at 10:49 am

    No one wants to discuss how this bill would do away with pre-schol at the public school level because funding now used would have to be shared with charters. Also no one wants to discus how charter school teachers and principal Aren’t held to the same standards as public school teachers. They are currently not required to be certified in the subject area they teach. There is much more to this bill that the public doesn’t know, things that will hurt us in the long run.

  8. Mark

    March 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

    @Alex. He made the trip to the meeting to voice his concern. If you listened to the streaming yesterday, you would have heard that he was one of the only public school principals that spoke. So yes, I feel that quoting his thoughts are relevant.

  9. Barbie

    March 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I agree Mark. As far as Alex’s comment regarding why some elementary school principal from a rural county would be quoted on the subject ~ because he is passionate enough about public education to make a trip to express his concerns and can speak from experience – what is your background Alex? Rural school systems would be hurt the most by this bill since there is very limited funding in these areas to begin with. Also, it has been my experience as a school psychologist that the majority of children that I have had to test from charter or private schools (using public school funding since we are required to provide such services) have been at least 2 years behind academically. I prefer for my tax dollars to support public education.

  10. AdamL

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I think the comments from Alex pretty much some up the attitude of those pushing this bill: why listen to someone who has 16 years of experience in the field of education?

  11. Alex

    March 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Probably one year of experience repeated 16 times. I doubt he’s ever been in a charter school. He advocates for the one thing he’s ever been exposed to.

  12. Barbie

    March 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Alex – you still have not revealed your background? Until you can educate those of us advocating public schools who have experience – why continue commenting? I have 13 years experience in public schools and your comment regarding Mr. Collin’s experience just displays ignorance at its finest. Go crawl back under that rock you have obviously been living under or find another place to blog your ignorance.

  13. Delbert

    March 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    How would this bill affect the preschool programs in North Carolina?

  14. Mae

    March 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Federal funds cannot be spent for anything other than the purpose they are intended. So, a percentage of those funds can’t be shared with charter schools that do not offer these programs. Therefore, school systems would be forced to take the percentage for charter schools from local funds. Public school systems simply cannot afford to do this so most would be forced to discontinue the program.

  15. Mellie

    March 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Alex, your comments are very disrespectful and demeaning towards someone whom you’ve apparently never met and know nothing about. “…some elementary school principal,” “probably one year of experience repeated 16 times…” I’m sorry, your qualifications to address this topic again are….?

  16. WAFranklin

    March 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Alex is not only abysmally ignorant, he is contaminated by the ideology of the right wing, which itself is driven by much more than education (actually once they have made their point, like with abortion, the aftermath is left to the imagination of others).

    I suggest that Alex, if he can stomach big words and complex thoughts, read: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch (Mar 2, 2010). Ravitch is a conservative, was for many years. She says two things are killing public education, (1) so-called school choice and (2) indiscriminate and frequent testing.

    The charter schools issue is a Trojan Horse, the big problem is the school vouchers which Stam is pursuing — H41–which have the possibility of costing the state/public school systems: $445,000 per year for the 180,000 home schoolers and private school students (70% of whom go to private RELIGIOUS schools). Guess Stam wants us to fund his madrassas here in North Carolina. But what the heck, no funding impacts have been presented with either bill. So much for all the Christianity the religious rights really has.

    By the way, this is part of a national GOP playbook which is ongoing and funded in part by the Koch Industry idiots and Americans for Prosperity. What do these rightwing whackjobs want: they want destroy any political influence teachers have so as to get at the Democrats. Some other of their bills have the same purpose, destroy the Democatic Party–the Voter ID bill for example has no other real purpose.

    Better wake up. This is what the Democrats get for not taking the threat of 2010 much more seriously. So, shut up and sit down Alex, until you learn one hell of a lot more than is obvious.

  17. Kate

    March 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    As a teacher at a charter school I would like to add that a lot of what is being said it completely false. First charter schools are not able to take whomever they want as students. There is a lottery process for placement as well as an application. The application is basically your contact information. The school is not able to ask many questions prior to the student being enrolled. Our charter school has 58% of our student population with a disability that was not being served by the traditional school. We must offer all the same services mandated federally for a child with a disability.
    The free lunch program is also funded federally, not locally and does not follow the child to a charter school now. A state law would also not be able to change that. Most charter school are not able to offer the free lunch programs because they do not have cafeterias because we do not get money for buildings.
    On the busing issue, our school serves 6 counties. We have parents drive an hour one direction to bring their students to school. How would you suppose we handle a busing system. The gas alone would blow any budget. The charter schools also do not get that allotment of money and the traditional schools keep the funds for the 33,000 children served by charter schools.
    I understand that no one wants to let go of funds they currently are receiving, the charter schools just want to have funds follow the child. The charter schools are having to pay for services that do not come out of traditional school budgets such as workers compensation, this is not a provided service to charters. Charter schools also have to build building without capital outlay funds. That money stays at the traditional school for those 33,000 children as well.

  18. Clay Boggess

    March 10, 2011 at 7:14 am

    There are always 2 sides to every argument. It looks like Collins was only able to present his side. Of course he wants to make charter schools look bad because they are a threat.