Friday, July 24, 2009

Charter schools: Why not in Maine?

[I have posted this as a question. I have no "skin in the game" regarding charter schools. I no longer have any children in public school. I regularly see the results of public schools, however, in building training programs for people that didn't acquire the requisite skills when they were in school. This isn't meant to be a slam against educators. I do believe, however that Maine parents should have as much choice in educating their children, as possible.

In 2004, I wrote a lengthy article on schools, and detailed the charter school option, asking similar questions. Five years later, Maine still is one of a handful of U.S. states without charter schools. I remain curious about why this is.--JB]

Charter schools: Why not in Maine?

Maine is one of only ten states that don't permit charter schools. Why is this?

Given that Maine currently is facing an $80 million dollar budget shortfall, with major cuts looming, potentially in education, could charter schools be an option for public education in Maine? Currently, there is a $4.4 billion federal pot of money targeted at education reform. States which limit or prohibit charter schools may be excluded from sharing such funds.

On May 28, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “States will hurt their chance to compete for millions of federal stimulus dollars if they fail to embrace innovations like charter schools.” (Libby Quaid, Associated Press, “Duncan: States could lose out on stimulus cash,” 5/28/09)

Charter schools are voluntary public schools, open to all children without admissions tests. They must be non-religious, and as small non-profit public organizations they are allowed increased flexibility in their operations in return for increased accountability for their students’ academic performance.

Many of these new charter schools, often small public schools, operate on a five-year charter issued by their authorizing agency, a local school board or a Maine university, which monitors and assesses their performance according to specific criteria.

The charter school model encourages innovation and responsiveness to children’s needs. It provides parents with increased choice, particularly if they feel that a public school, conventional or charter, is not meeting their child’s needs. It allows them an option of choosing another public school and the funds will follow that child - but only if charter schools as an option--in Maine, they are not.

Here are ten things you should know about charter schools:

Charter schools are:

  • publicly funded, and are not vouchers for private schools.
  • open to all students.
  • pioneers and innovators in public education.
  • meeting parents' needs.
  • appealing places to work for teachers.
  • committed to improving public education.
  • operated by an exciting array of non-profit groups.
  • playing an important part in school reform.
  • demonstrating a record of student achievement.

[list courtesy of the US Charter Schools website]

If interested in knowing more about charter schools, and efforts in Maine to provide that choice for parents, here is a link to the Maine Association for Charter Schools website.

Here's a good example of the problems that occur when students don't receive a quality high school education.

No comments: