Charter school resolution passed; video

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My Tulsa World was at Monday's Tulsa Public School Board meeting and has video of the debate over the resolution that would stop the approval of new charter schools and the growth of existing charter schools.

Matt Livingood, school board president, brought the resolution to the board. If I understood him correctly, he was arguing that the Charter School Act might be unconstitutional, TPS won't fully implement the terms of the act, but because it might be constitutional after all, TPS won't shut down the existing charter schools either. Barbara Gamble, dean of Dove Science Academy, pointed out the damage to teacher and parent morale that would be caused by passage of Livingood's resolution. Perhaps that was his real intent -- cast more FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) over the future of charter schools, so as to dissuade parents from applying. If he could stimulate a decline in enrollment, it would be easier to shut the school down.

If the school board really wanted to support charter schools, they could pass a resolution assuring the teachers, parents, and students that the TPS board will do everything in its power to keep the charter schools running, regardless of what the courts do with the Charter Schools Act. Harold Roberts, director of development at the Deborah Brown Community School, noted that TPS could seek an opinion from the Attorney General. If the AG were to find constitutional defects with the law, the legislature would step in to cure those defects. TPS could help expedite this process, eliminate the uncertainty, and put charter schools on a firm footing for the future.

Jamie Pierson, my fellow UTW columnist and a graduate of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, urged the board to do as much as possible to support charter schools as an asset to the students and to the community, to be proud of what these schools have accomplished.

Instead it was clear that at least four of the seven board members are hostile to charter schools: Livingood and the other three white women -- Cathy Newsome, Ruth Ann Fate, and Bobbie Gray. Oma Jean Copeland and Lana Turner-Addison, the two African-American women on the board, spoke against the resolution. Copeland said that the matter should be left to the legislators and the Supreme Court, that Tulsa's charter schools are excelling, and that it is important to offer parents and students choice. Copeland also called for lifting the moratorium on new charter schools. Turner-Addison called the resolution a "renegade approach," ignoring the existing Charter School Act.

The supporters of the resolution were careful to avoid saying they opposed charter schools, but Cathy Newsome let the mask slip when she said that the Charter School Act discriminates against large districts because only large districts can have charter schools.

Gary Percefull, the only board member who is up for re-election next month, avoided giving his opinions by serving as chairman in lieu of Livingood while the board considered Livingood's proposal. In the end, he did vote against the resolution, but as the last voter he knew that his vote would not have an impact on the outcome, as four members had already voted yes.

The videos are short, well organized into segments, and small, so they won't suck up all your bandwidth. If you've never seen your school board at work, you need to watch these. And don't miss Steve Roemerman's coverage -- he was there too and has summaries and quotes from some of the speakers and the board members.

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2 Comments

Shadow6 said:

Michael,

Pray Sir, where do you send your children to school? Private, public, public charter, or home school?

My children go to a private Christian school.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 11, 2007 10:55 PM.

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