Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Charter schools, not my job

Mr. Gibbons' Report CardBroward County School District

Robert Runcie, the superintendent of the  Broward County School District, wanted to help low-performing charter schools by partnering them with high-quality charter operators. He and his staff brought the idea to the school board and helped secure a $3.3 million grant from the state. But Runcie’s bosses on the school board opted to turn the grant down. The reason defies logic.

“It’s not our job,” said board member Laurie Rich Levinson. Board member Patricia Good didn’t want to help either because, according to the Sun-Sentinel she believed, “it was up to individual schools to bring up their own grades.”

Laurie Rich Levinson
Laurie Rich Levinson

The apathetic approach to helping students in underperforming charter schools isn’t surprising given the Board’s history with charters. Repeated constantly by the Sun-Sentinel, board members claim charters are “easy to open but difficult to shutter if they fail,” and that this is entirely the state’s fault.

Reality is more complicated. Broward shuts down a lot of charter schools. It also approves a lot of charters. According to the 2014 Authorizers Report, Broward recently approved 22 new charter schools, more than any other district in the state.

District staff say they are understaffed for charter school oversight, and the board grumbles about the proliferation of of poor-performing charter schools. But now the board is refusing money to help on both accounts.

Grade: Needs Improvement

 

Paul Ware Jr., Michael Keating and William Lee

Boston, MA
Boston

Do limitations on charter school growth violate the civil rights of students wanting to enroll? Critics of charters may disagree, but rival lawyers Paul Ware Jr., Michael Keating and William Lee are teaming up for a possible lawsuit against the state of Massachusetts to overturn the cap on charter schools.

Massachusetts currently has just 80 charter schools, with 34 centered in Boston alone, serving 30,000 students statewide. Charter advocates claim a waiting list of 40,000 students that cannot be served due to the limit on charter school growth.

William Lee told the Boston Globe,  “We don’t think they should be denied that opportunity, and we don’t think the Constitution allows them to be denied that opportunity.  We’d like to see the cap removed so that supply meets demand.”

Evidence suggests that charters in Massachusetts benefit students, especially low-income and African American students, so efforts to keep students out of such schools are questionable at best.

Grade: Satisfactory

 

Keith Ballard and the Tulsa World editorial board

Superintendent Keith Ballard
Superintendent Keith Ballard

According to an editorial by Tulsa World, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard recently told a room full of lawmakers, “There is no reason for vouchers… When 85 percent of the public… stands up and says we support the work you are doing, it shouldn’t even be heard.”

Tulsa World agrees, stating that the 85 percent vote “showed voters have confidence in the abilities of local public schools, and the voucher bill is fighting that tide.”

So what vote are they referencing here?

On March 3rd voters in Tulsa approved a $415 million public school bond for school construction, renovation, technological devices and library books, with 85 percent of the turn-out voting yes.

So, “yes” to library books means “no” to vouchers?

You aren’t alone if you are confused by that logic. (In this case the term “vouchers” actually refers to a  plan to offer families education savings accounts).

As it turns out, Ballard and Tulsa World may be exaggerating the breadth of public support.  Only 5 percent of the registered voters in Tulsa voted “yes” on the bond proposition. Vouchers are fighting a “tide” in Oklahoma? Hardly.

In fact, it seems Oklahoma legislators may know something Ballard and Tulsa World don’t: good public schools and educational choice aren’t mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, the so-called “voucher” proposal was recently pulled from consideration in the Legislature, with supporters citing a raft of “misinformation like, say, the dubious arguments being peddled in the local media.

Grade: Needs Improvement