Sunday, April 03, 2011

Charter School Spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Utica

I'll be the last person to defend the track record of public schools. Simply put, they are not doing the job they have been given to do.  That said, Charter Schools -- at least New York State's version of them -- are NOT a viable alternative. Now Utica may have a Charter School in its future. Per the OD:
The schools’ lead applicant, Dr. Andy Lopez-Williams, specializes in children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The school would utilize methods developed by Lopez-Williams, but would be open to all students.
Per his website, Dr. Lopez-Williams has impressive credentials and experience, as well as a business that centers on providing services to individuals with autism. Certainly parents of autistic children would applaud having an alternative. The proposed school's prospectus reads well, seemingly promising something for everyone.

No reflection on Lopez-Williams, this spells big TROUBLE for Utica because of the way New York State funds and controls Charter Schools...

Taxation without representation. 

Utica taxpayers and residents will have NO referendum on the new school . . .and NO means of control over the school.  Rather, if the school gets a charter from the State, Utica's overburdened taxpayers will be stuck paying for it.

Dual public school system 

Utica is having enough trouble keeping one school system going.  Saddling the taxpayers with the cost of a second will drive more people and jobs out of town, threatening the city's economic viability.

Creation of another special interest group looking for a handout.

The New York Charter Schools Association is already complaining that its per student level of funding is less than that of regular public schools. You will hear this complaint more with a local charter school.

Poor oversight.

Local school boards have difficulties exacting performance out of their schools. Do people really believe that licensing authorities in Albany are capable of doing a better job?

Fragmentation of the curriculum with "designer schools"

An example is Chicago's "green" school.  Taxpayers could be forced to pay for charter schools for every social cause, political agenda, or interest.

Taxpayer funding of private business endeavors and experimentation.

If educators think they have a good idea, they should bear the risks of implementing it, not the taxpayers. Taxpayers should not be forced to fund someone's experiments. Let the marketplace rather than a state board determine "success."

Charter Schools are part of the legacy of the Republican Gov. Patacki years, but they have been expanded by his Democrat  successors.  Fittingly, Albany has the greatest number of them. Fred Lebrun of the Times Union has written several articles worth reading:
If the public schools are failing, the answer is to fix them, not create a taxpayer-funded, elite-controlled alternative system.  If fixing them is not an option, then try issuing vouchers that can be used at private schools ... Vouchers may still create a funding headache for local school districts, but they will put in charge the persons most likely to find success for students: their Parents.

There is something very wrong with our government when one man can go to a State board to force an entire city pay for his personal dream.  The Charter School law needs to be changed to give residents of local school districts the say over if and how a Charter School will be implemented.  


Dave said...

Charter Schools were a good idea that so far have been poorly executed.

Jason said...

This endeavor is not one mans personal dream but the collective dream of the entire planning committee. Dr Lopez-Williams is actually just one of the founding members. Our planning committee is made up of more than 10 people. Collectively we have formal experience in education, financial, technology, health and law.

You also make mention of overburdening the taxpayers. The only problem is the taxpayers are not paying twice for 1 student. In fact the MVCSE doesn't receive any money outside of the per pupil state provided funding and of those monies received we only are given 70% of those per pupil dollars. The home district (Utica) still receives 30% of the money without having to educate them. We also don't receive any money that the district collects through local school taxes.

We'd love to sit down in person and speak with you directly if your interested. I'm sure after that visit you'll have a much better understanding and appreciation for what we are trying to do.