Tulsa school board seeks to strangle charter schools

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The Tulsa public school district is fond of calling itself the "District of Choice," but the board and school administration has always been hostile to giving parents in the district the choice of charter schools -- schools that are publicly-funded and tuition-free, but are independently governed. Other than home schooling or private schooling, it's the only opportunity to choose for your child a different educational philosophy than the one-size-fits-all plan crafted by the educrats at 31st and New Haven.

Tomorrow (Monday) night, the Tulsa School Board will consider a resolution protesting the fact that Tulsa is one of only 20 districts in the state allowed by law to have charter schools. More than protesting, the resolution sets out policy for dealing with the existing three charter schools in the district (Deborah Brown Elementary, Dove Science Middle School, and Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences), policy that would stop any further growth and endanger their ongoing viability.

The school board meeting is at 7:00 p.m. on the first floor of the Educational Service Center, just north of 31st Street on New Haven Ave. (between Harvard and Yale).

The author of the resolution believes the law establishing charter schools is an unconstitutional "special law," in much the same way as the early '90s county home rule bill, which allowed only counties between a certain minimum and maximum size to establish its own form of government. The numbers in the county home rule bill were deliberately set so that only Tulsa County qualified, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately ruled the law unconstitutional for that reason.

The charter school act is not so narrowly drawn as the county home rule law was, but whatever its flaws with regard to being a special law, it's telling that some board member or perhaps the administration is not seeking to mend it to allow charter schools to continue and expand the service they offer to Tulsa's students, but is using the constitutional issue as an excuse to throttle the three existing charter schools.

The proposed resolution, which you can read in full at Tulsa Chigger's blog, would set the following policies toward charter schools:

  • Renewals of charters with existing schools will be for at most three years, with a provision that funding from the school district will end the minute that the charter schools law is found unconstitutional.
  • Charter renewals won't be considered if the request includes plans to expand the number of students served.
  • No new charter applications will be considered.

This will probably pass overwhelmingly, since our school board members see themselves as there to prop up the administration, not to hold the administration accountable on behalf of parents and taxpayers. It shouldn't pass, and people who care about Tulsa, even if you don't care about public education, should be there to protest tomorrow night.

If you're a student or the parent of a student in one of the charter schools, or an alumnus or alumna, you should be there to talk about how you've benefitted from that educational opportunity and to urge the board to allow more children to have that opportunity.

If you're concerned about the City of Tulsa's competitiveness with its suburbs, you should be there to explain how important the existence and expansion of charter schools are to keeping young families in the district. Charter schools allow parents and students to experience the same kind of administrative responsiveness and parental participation in school policy that they would enjoy in the suburbs.

If you're concerned about the vitality of inner city neighborhoods, you should be there for the same reason. I know many couples who started out in midtown, but as their first child approached school age, they stayed in the city of Tulsa, but moved into the Jenks or Union school district and left midtown behind. They hate to leave behind the shaded streets and the classic homes, but their children's education comes first.

For that matter, school board members and administrators and teachers should realize that the regular schools benefit from charter schools. Charter schools -- and more of them -- will keep people from moving out of the district, which means the homes are more valuable, which means higher property tax collections from homes. It also means that businesses catering to these families stay in the district, and that helps property tax collections as well. Then, too, more parents and grandparents who are happy with the school district will be more likely to help the passage of future bond issues. Not every parent wants their child in a school where, for example, the French class, by design, avoids actual instruction in French.

Voters in Board District 1 should pay special attention to how your board member, Gary Percefull, votes on this proposal. Percefull's term expires this year, and he has drawn an opponent in the February 13 election, and his position on charter schools ought to be an issue in this race. (Here's a PDF map showing election district boundaries. And here's a page listing the names of the board members. There's an email link for each one.)

For the area within the Tulsa Public School district to thrive, it needs to become truly the District of Choice. The proposed resolution would turn it into the District of Hobson's Choice.

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David S. said:

There goes watching the football game Monday night....
As someone with a step-son attending Dove I'll be there

S. Lee said:

I have to register a strong disagreement with your viewpoint here. I'm convinced the biggest problem with the education system -- and society in general -- is failure to deal with problem students at an early age. This is why junk like "No child left behind" has a near zero chance of success. As long as people who have no business reproducing continue to do it anyway, society is going to have to deal with the results. It can be dealt with early, or it can be dealt with later, as in: 1 out of 32 people are in jail or on parole.

Charter schools fall in the same catagory as convention centers and high priced river projects: Lame attempts at window dressing and cheap image enhancement while the underlying infrastructure suffers. Although many might balk at the idea of a disproportionate amount of money and attention going to straighten out a kid with worthless parents, chances are good that a significant chunk of our money going to deal with that kid one way or another. My strong suggestion is that it be sooner rather than later. I have difficulty seeing how running a very few privileged schools meets that need.

Bob said:

You're wasting your time trying to agitate for reform of our public schools.

Our public schools are beyond being able to be reformed, and the militant teachers union have absolutely no appetite for reform. The teachers union is closely allied with the school bureaucracy and their associated captive crony contractors, vendors, and suppliers of school servicers who in turn provide the funding to select the school boards in gerrymandered elections.

And, on a state level, they have a wholly-owned subsidiary called the Democrat Party to pull the strings of government in totally in their favor.

Oklahoma has 541 school districts, the 4th largest number of any state in the U.S. This insanity of bureaucratic bloat has continued for decades under the leadership of Ms. Sandy Garrett, who has been the state education czar since 1988.

There just ain't gonna be no reform.

And, for their future power aggrandizement and claim on the tax payers purse, they have patented a method to ensure a continued growth in funding for Tulsa Public Schools: Educating the children of Illegal Immigrants.

I estimate at 100% of the growth in Tulsa Public school in the last ten years has been the children of illegal immigrants.

This kind of reminds me of Walmart for some reason.
TPS is using it's overwhelming "power" and status as bully of the block to jockey the state around to kill it's competition.
TPS shouldn't be worried about the competition itself, they should be worrying about proving themselves better than the competition.
Besides that, government-funded indoctrination (as Dan Paden always says), is a failure when it's sole goal is to indoctrinate instead of educate.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 7, 2007 3:42 PM.

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