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Wacky Mommy

Well. We discussed New Harvest on my husband's blog, here:

http://morehockeylesswar.org/blog/archive/2007/09/16/up_bubbles_the_charter_schools_question/

npdxparent

I've been following the public school situation since we moved to N/NE Portland a few years ago when our child was still a baby. At first charter schools seemed like a reasonable option, but the more I learn about them the less I like them. We've concluded that a charter school wouldn't be the best option for our child, and would also have a negative impact on the larger public school system.

I just hope that other parents will take a close look at our traditional public schools before deciding to opt for a charter school instead. I think that many of the things that families are seeking in charter schools are already happening or can be created in our existing public schools. A small number of involved parents in a public school can make a really big difference for a lot of kids.

Thanks!

Sareena

First, it's foolish to lump all charters schools together as if they mean the same thing. You can't make a blanket "charter schools are bad" statement without individually assessing each charter and it's program and results.

Our daughter attends Emerson because we love their vision and the community it's fostered. There's a reason so many families apply at Emerson, the Project Approach is a hands on, applicable way of learning.

I'm so thankful that my daughter isn't crammed in a desk in a classroom bordering on 30 kids doing worksheets.

Charter schools are a lot of work and dedication from parents and staff, and while many will come and go due to lack of long-term vision and support, those that have a solid charter will continue to grow and enrich the community they are a part of.

Zarwen

I am just finishing a guest column on charter schools that will be posted on morehockeylesswar. It will be accompanied by one of Steve's famous color-coded maps showing the locations of charter schools AND closed neighborhood schools. I am hoping it will be posted next week. Will be glad to post a link here once it's up.

Lisa

Thanks, Zarwen - Sounds like a great share. The more info the better for people to learn & draw their own conclusions on this increasingly relevant topic.

Terry

I've directed traffic over here from my blog where I just encouraged local school activists to let the school board, which is about to publicly consider the applications of four more charter schools, know how they feel about the growing charterization of their district.

Read the post, Sareena, and then tell me again how foolish it is to "lump all charters" together. Regardless of how well they're run, charters by definition are special interest communities of like-minded parents. That flies in the face of the public common school ideal, where kids learn that other kids quite unlike them actually do exist.

Terry

I've directed traffic over here from my blog where I just encouraged local school activists to let the school board, which is about to publicly consider the applications of four more charter schools, know how they feel about the growing charterization of their district.

Read the post, Sareena, and then tell me again how foolish it is to "lump all charters" together. Regardless of how well they're run, charters by definition are special interest communities of like-minded parents. That flies in the face of the public common school ideal, where kids learn that other kids quite unlike them actually do exist.

Steve

"...it's foolish to lump all charters schools together as if they mean the same thing."

While there may be some (very few and far between) individual exceptions, charter schools are anti-union. They also are anti-teacher to the extent that they only have to hire 50% certified teaching staff in the state of Oregon.

More importantly, they signal a departure from our social-democratic notion of common schools for all. The idea of small groups of parents banding together in isolation to make their own lot better, at the expense of society at large, is a libertarian concept.

So sure, you might find a charter school you like that works for your family. But the costs to society -- fragmented communities, two-tiered public education, chipping away at fair labor policy, economic and racial segregation and more -- are far to high.

So when I say "charter schools are bad," you shouldn't take that to mean I think your charter school is bad. It's the overarching concept and policy I speak of.

Zarwen

This link will take you to a list of all the charter schools that have operated in the state. It is interesting to note that some have been short-lived, and others have "transitioned" back into regular school district programs.

http://www.osba.org/hotopics/charters/progress.htm

Sareena

I read the post, Terry. I just happen to disagree.

I do acknowledge the possibility of cons to charters as they exist currently as listed by Steve, but the assertion that charters by definition are merely homogenized tools of the Libertarian school of thought is extreme.

I'm sure you disagree.

It seems that the true issue here is one of "school choice" and not just charters, am I correct?

valerie

I love the discussion of the charter school, and am thankful, as a parent, to have the choice. We did choose a charter--The Emerson School--and am so happy we did. Not only is our child getting an amazing education, she is part of a laboratory, if you will, for what IS possible in regular public schools.

I think if you come into The Emerson School, what you will find is at least a couple different things. A) There is a feeling of instant belonging and community that you really don't get in bigger public schools. People say this all the time. Even people who have no interest in sending their child there. B) While you can say a charter is of "like minded" parents, the reality is much different than you'd expect. The reasons people send their child to our school vary greatly, and vary greatly within each reason. From the location (in the trendy Pearl District; downtown close to where parents work; in the heart of the city; away from the suburbs; next to Burnside and "real" people) to the education style, to the school/class size, to friends/family go there.... the list goes on and on.

As Chair of our parent group I can assure you there are still many (many!) issues getting parents to volunteer and be involved in the education of their children. Honestly, I really thought the charter school, in this respect, would be quite different. But I have enough friends who teach in regular public schools to see it's the same as every other public school.

The children aren't perfect. We have behavior issues and plenty (in fact, an above average percentage) of kids with IEDs. The major difference with The Emerson School is their discipline approach and making sure all children in all classrooms at any level feel part of the whole.

Clearly I am a fan of the charter school and I certainly won't apologize for it. Our school has problems and issues but I still drive across town to take my children there. It was a choice our family made and I'm so pleased we had the choice.

I should also note that I was a public school kid and did just fine. If there were no charters, my child would do just fine in regular public school too. There are plenty of great public schools out there and even more wonderful teachers in them. Our choice for a charter came from seeing too many trends we didn't agree with (in general) and wanting to find a teaching/learning style best for our child (specifically). We don't think we are better than any one else but we do think our child is getting the best education for her.

Finding the best education for your child is a parent's goal, right? Wouldn't that include moving into a specific neighborhood to be in a particular school district? Researching each neighborhood school for benchmarks, social problems, gang activity etc? Considering a public charter school follows those lines. Each parent has to do what is best for their child. Public, public charter, private or whatever the choice.

Brining the greatness of the charter into the regular public school would be fantastic. If our neighborhood treated education as our charter does, we'd be there in a second. But until the school district and the people who run it are willing to look at change and improvement, as a parent, we have the responsibility to our child to do what is best for her. We can only hope the school district will consider charters a wake up call from parents that something different is needed and desired. We love the idea that our child is the lab rat for what can hopefully become the norm.

olivia

Activistas, an online community for the activist mama and papas, has grown from urbanMamas. As on urbanMamas, we here on Activistas also honor the two cardinal rules: treat each other with respect and be honest. http://urbanmamas.typepad.com/urbanmamas/2007/03/urbanmamas_poli.html

We have tackled many a controversial issue on urbanMamas, and we have managed to do so respectfully and honestly.

When we started our quest for a public school here in Portland about 2 years ago, we were pretty overwhelmed with the choices. Back in New York, there were no choices. Your neighborhood school was your neighborhood school. Homes/apts in the top school distrcits sold/rented at a premium. In areas where there is no *public* school choice, there still can be choice for higher-income families. Those families can choose private schools. Lower-income families, however, don't have the same choice.

School choice in the public school system provides opportunity for lower-income families to opt for higher-quality and alternative education. I just found an organization here in Portland that is pro-school choice for the purposes of providing quality education to lower-income Black and Latino families: http://www.portlandschoolchoice.com/index.htm

Alternative schools do not stem from the "idea of small groups of parents banding together in isolation to make their own lot better". I am also having a hard time finding where it says that "charters by definition are special interest communities of like-minded parents." Charter school development & implementation in Oregon is supported in party by federal funds under the No Child Left Behind act because, as the Oregon Dept of Education states, "policymakers, parents, and educators are looking at chartering as a way to increase educational choice and innovation within the public school system." The framework for charter school development and evaluation are found in ORS 338.015 and the goals include:
-increasing student learning and achievement,
- increasing choices of learning opportunities,
- better meet individual student academic needs,
- build stronger working relationships among educators, parents, other community members,
- encourage use of different learning methods,
- provide opportunities in small learning environments for flexibility and innovation, which may be applied, if proven effective, to other public schools,
- create new professional opportunities for teachers,
- establish additional forms of accountability for schools, create innovative measurement tools.

All of these goals sound to me that charter schools are intended to strengthen the public school system as a whole and to meet needs of public school students at large.

The thrust of the charter school movement is to provide choices to retain more students within the public school system. Honestly, the fact that PPS offer school choices has retained our daughters as PPS students. Had we not found a public school that fit with our family, we would have found a way for our daughters to attend a private school.

The most recent evaluation of the charter schools shows that 13% of the students were previously attending private schools and another 6% of students were previously homeschooled. So, 19% of charter school students [surveyed - at a 37% response rate] would not have been supporting the public school system if not for charter schools. However the numbers shake out, I think it is safe to say that charter schools are bring students back into the public school system from homeschools or private schools.

From what we've found as your average mama & papa wanting the best school for our girls, PPS endorses a variety of non-traditional schools in the form of magnets, alternative schools, and charters. Sareena, I would agree with you that the issue here is _school choice_ and not necessarily _charter schools_ in specific.

We are also parents at the Emerson School and love the educational philosophy and approach. There are more charter schools in the works here in Portland (Ivy and New Harvest are the ones I've heard of), and I support the schools for providing alternatives within the public school system.

The one thing I am interested in pursuing, however, is the comment that charter schools are "anti-union" and "anti-teacher". So, if anyone has any insight on that, I am happy to hear!

valerie

Well, then. As to our school having an above average percentage of IEDs.... To my knowledge our school is highly opposed to bombs of any kind (and I'm pretty sure it's not because it's a charter). I'm hoping that was read as IEP. Somehow I think my brain must have been caught between a war and a womb.
Jinkies!

Terry

Certainly the issue is choice. How one distinguishes charter schools from other school options, however, is beyond me.

I suggest that defenders of the charter school option look carefully at the research that has been done on the impact of charter schools on the public districts that fund them (much of which I've reported on my blog.)

The bottom line is simply this: school choice, including charters, leaves the neediest and poorest students behind in schools that are more likely to be segregated by race and by class, and are least likely to attract sufficient enrollment to justify their continued operation.

We see that happpening in Portland now.

Terry

Certainly the issue is choice. How one distinguishes charter schools from other school options, however, is beyond me.

I suggest that defenders of the charter school option look carefully at the research that has been done on the impact of charter schools on the public districts that fund them (much of which I've reported on my blog.)

The bottom line is simply this: school choice, including charters, leaves the neediest and poorest students behind in schools that are more likely to be segregated by race and by class, and are least likely to attract sufficient enrollment to justify their continued operation.

We see that happpening in Portland now.

Terry

Forgive the double posting. I assure you it's not intentional.

Lisa

Wow, my eyes are wide open. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to opine on this clearly emotional topic, and to share personal experiences & tough decisions. I think we can all agree that the constant choices to do what is best for our child(ren) verses what is best for all children/society - and soemtimes it does seem that the two are in conflcit - is far from easy. I agree that the experimenting can be useful for establishing future norms, the departure from n'hood schools a wake-up call for the district, but I also can see how the widening choices are progress for people who have not always had it. Intersting to see that these schools are in some cases bringing people into the district. Call me naive, but after some of the palces i've lived, I remain VERY grateful that our public school system is a real choice for us, where we can do what is best for our children and support the pub education ideals, also. I guess in the end I have to realize that we will never have a 100% public system (drats), and since we won't, choice is good at all income-levels. At some level charters make that choice real. Please keep in mind that my kids have not yet entered kindergarten (thought close enough to have me thinking pretty hard about all this), so an experienced opiner I am not.

Himself

"School Choice" is an illusion used to sell privatization of our public schools. Nothing more, nothing less. As Terry points out, it statistically benefits wealthier families to the detriment of poorer families. That's a demonstrable fact.

As I said at one point on my blog at one point, "That's 'school choice' for you, folks. If you choose to live in a wealthy neighborhood, you get good schools. If you choose to be poor, or choose to live in an economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood, you get to fight over the crumbs."

npdxparent

Portland's system of "school choice" increases options for the families who already have the most options and drains students and resources from lower income neighborhood schools where children are most dependent on a public education.

The goal of the public school system is to provide a quality education for all students regardless of race or income. Charter schools make that goal more difficult to achieve. "School choice" doesn't equal school quality. And we don't really have a system of school choice anyway - we have a school lottery system.

It baffles me how often school board members and others put more value on retaining wealthier families in public schools, over providing a quality public education to everyone including the kids who need it most. Ideally we would do both (and I know we can), but the public school system should not drain resources out of our poorest schools in order to provide special options for our wealthier families who might otherwise choose a private school.

Please don't be fooled. When you look at the big picture, charter schools and magnet schools don't widen choice or lead to system-wide improvements, they do widen the gap between the haves and have-nots. That shouldn't happen within a public school district.

For some children, a decent public education is their only chance out of poverty. I'm grateful that families want to find ways to improve public schools. Let's work together to make sure that the changes benefit all our kids.

valerie

This is an addition I would have mentioned in my earlier post but neglected to do so.

At The Emerson School, from what I recall our administrator telling me, about half our students qualify for free/reduced lunch. This year, do to the size of our school, PPS has decided to not even offer school lunch as a choice to our families. Those in need depend on others in our population to help donate lunch choices for them. And as far as I can tell, we have so super wealthy families at our school.

We are not elite by any means.

If you are talking choice I think it's important to note that yes, while some lower income families may not see charters as a choice I think there are definite reasons for that. Including lack of knowledge they exist and are available to ALL students, as well as a complete lack of understanding that charter schools are PUBLIC schools and thus FREE. (I can't tell you how many times I've had to explain that to friends and family members alike.) When we were looking at elementary school choices we were very uneducated about the existence of charters or magnets. It did take plenty of research into the subject to even find out about them. So yes, that makes these schools limited to those without the resources to understand they are available. And perhaps lower income families will be less likely to look at what choices are available to them. But we have many many many low income families at our school where the parents consider the education important enough to commute to get there.

Please understand, and I can't state this enough, I really love public schools. I would not send my child to a private school even if we had the money to do so. I really want to see public schools work and it thrilled me to understand charters ARE public. While they may impact neighborhood schools, don't think it's the money we get (since we only get 80% per student of other public schools--we have to raise the other 20% just to RUN our school), and I don't think it's because we are excluding families--just as many middle class parents don't get selected by the lottery.

I could be wrong, and I'm sure there are plenty of people to tell me I am, but I do truly believe the way to make all schools better is by offering learning/education differences to see what works for different children so ALL schools can work toward programs meant to serve as many children and learning styles as possible.

valerie

Jeez, again, my brain!

Corrections to my post:

1) DUE to the size....
2) NO super wealthy families...

mary

Some families choose schools based upon necessity, charter or otherwise. I am barely making it financially and had to consider my choice based on some things that no one here has mentioned.

I work starting at 1 pm. I needed my child to go to kindergarten at a school that was half-day so I could get him to Grandma's house for the afternoon/evening while I work. We are not in PPS district, we are in David Douglas, where kindergarten is full-day. And no, a finding a new job is not an option. There are many good reasons why I need to work the hours that I do.

And I wanted my child to go to a school with uniforms since I can't afford to be buying him all sorts of clothes for school, or dealing with the pressures of fashion at school, etc, later when he is older.

And I do like his school and have no apologies whatsoever. I have yet to meet a wealthy parent there, by the way.

mary

I failed to mention that yes, my child attends a charter school.

Wacky Mommy

I just talked with a NE Portland mom this morning, an old friend of mine, who moved her kids this year from a neighborhood school (not their neighborhood school, but a neighborhood school) into a charter school.

She said, "Now people are saying that charter schools are some right-wing conspiracy to get rid of public schools? Rubbish! We are a public school."

No, that's not what I'm saying at all. She wasn't trying to be dismissive of my politics and stance (we've had some conversations, prior to this morning's), she was just wanting to know more.

But in some cases, for some parents and staff, this is how you can "dismiss away" the concerns many of us are raising.

If you call someone paranoid, it makes that person... what? Invalid? Crazy? And you can go on your merry way, because *you* don't have a "right-wing agenda," *you* are the parent of a "bright" child who deserves all the best.

(A mom -- from our school -- three weeks ago told me, "Good parents send their children to good schools; bad parents send their children to bad schools!" Well, that simplifies things, sure. And it makes us *both* bad parents, it would seem, because our school is not considered a "good" school. Hmmm. Am I a bad parent? Sometimes you're the last one to know, damn.)

I would like you to remember, please, that our neighborhood schools contain many "bright" children whose needs are not being met, and whose parents are not transferring them to "good" schools. These kids are not getting the TAG classes they need, the music lessons, the attention in class and with homework, the art sessions. So when you grab your kids and dash, you aren't helping out the greater community.

(Am I dashing by moving my family to Beaverton? Will I now be considered a "good" parent? The whole thing is a headache.)

But what "choice" are we being given by the district, when they're pulling away art lessons to focus on literacy, math and testing? My "bright" kids are lucky -- we belong to the art museum, we read constantly at home. Their father is a musician, we both write, they come from an educated extended family. I want to keep them in the neighborhood schools (although that neighborhood will soon be Beaverton, cos I am tired of fighting PPS).

Anyway, but to the "paranoia"... I do think charter schools are being encouraged by the school districts because not all of the teachers have to be certified (ie -- this can justify lower pay, if the teachers are not "worth" higher pay -- as in, no undergrad or master's degrees, no teaching certificates, no other special credentials to warrant the higher pay).

The teachers are paid in "cool" bucks, because they teach in a "cool, good" school, not that "crappy school up the block."

And I do believe, strongly, that charter schools are union-busters. Emerson, Waldorf, Trillium, all the rest of you? Are your teachers represented by a union? Why is that?

When you're taking the kids whose parents are best able to advocate for them, you're taking the "cream of the crop" and putting them somewhere else? You're screwing the rest of us.

I have given up on PPS, but maybe I wouldn't feel this way if I had some of you in my corner.

ProtestMama

Umm, yeah.

Transportation is not usually provided to magnet and charters, so parents with transportation issues are excluded. The application processes can be cumbersome for parents with multiple children, multiple jobs, etc.

I am saddedned by the refusal of people who are privileged to admit that they are and it impacts the choices available to them. Please read some works by Donna Beegle, PhD, a Portland native. It really helped me get in touch with my privilege issues. For Real. A family experiencing "generational" poverty is less likely to get served these options. Surviving on one income while the other parent pursue a graduate degree is not the same as working the night shift at the Plaid and being the sole support of a family. Even if their incomes are relatively the same. So while charters may be an option for Family A they may not be for family B. I am very angry that public funds are used to create elite schools that are generally whiter and wealthier than the district as a whole. Trillium is a whiter school than any of the neighborhood schools within walking distance of their campus per the Portland Tribune article written within the past year. Beach, Humboldt, Ockley, Jefferson are the neighborhood schools. So however the segregation is occuring, incidental or not, it shouldn't be funded by Portland Public Schools. I've seen Emerson in passing and see more diversity every year, and I'm still not comfortable with my friends who have opted out of N/NE schools for that option.

My experience is that the schedules of magnet and charters sometimes varies from regular PPS schedule which impacts childcare and work for some parents. YWCA and other sliding scale afterschool programs coordinate their schedule with PPS. It is a privilege to not have to worry about such things.

I just believe resources should be spent towards supporting traditional neighborhood schools. Holy Redeemer has in its fundraising brochure 34% of its children as being under Federal Poverty Level. To me it is unconscionable that parents who can least afford it are paying for education because PPS is not serving their children. HRCS is also comprised of 61 percent children of color. Clearly, school choice is not working for these families either.

Lynn S

Valerie,
You say that at Emerson you "have many many many low income families at our school where the parents consider the education important enough to commute to get there." This suggests that parents who send their children to neighborhood schools don't consider the education of their kids as important enough.

It is an often-repeated misperception that parents in neighborhood schools don't care about our kids education. Maybe you don't care about the education of our kids enough to invest in our neighborhood schools, but at least don't suggest that we don't.

Sareena

Lynn, that's not what she said. There seems to be a level of defensiveness from parents who choose their neighborhood school rather than that of a charter.

The education Valerie may be referring to is the Project Approach, which is generally not used in traditional public schools. We have friends who drive from the Ainsworth school area to attend the new Village School because the Waldorf method of education is important to their family.

The overarching generalizations I've seen here about elitism and abandonment of our community is sad. No one is suggesting people who choose their neighborhood schools somehow value their child's education less, but some of you sure have made assumptions about the people who choose charters.

It's awfully sad that you've chosen to continue to push this agenda as an us vs. them scenario.

Nicole

Valerie,

Over 90% of the families in my neighborhood school qualify for free or reduced lunch, and I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't care about the education of their child. Please remember that many parents absolutely don't have the extra time or resources to send their child to a school outside the neighborhood. Some families don’t have the option to drive their kids to those schools, and for working parents the logistics of traveling by bus to a charter school and then work is logistically impossible.

But the main issue is that families shouldn't have to leave their neighborhood school (and community) to get access to a decent education that is available in other public schools. I agree with Terry, Wacky Mommy, Protest Mama, Lynn S and others who are advocating for investing in neighborhood schools rather than in special options that compete with them.

In a free market ("school choice") public education system it's the kids and families who end up having to compete for a decent public education. And the it's the children who are already most disadvantaged that lose the most in the competition. And in the end our whole community/city is harmed if we have an inequitable and unjust school system. It's just not a good model for a public school system.

Wacky Mommy

re: "It's awfully sad that you've chosen to continue to push this agenda as an us vs. them scenario."

Who's "pushing" that? I am not. I do not want it to be "us vs. them" at all. I do not want that in the least. We are divided against each other now, I hate it. I do not want to hate.

When the founder of the Village School (Waldorf) said to one of the Chief Joseph parents (not knowing that her child was a Chief Joe student), "What is the name of that other school down the block?" that is offensive to Chief Joe students and our community. She was being disrespectful of our community, and the work we all have done and continue to do. She has not even taken the time to find out who were are.

We are divided.

When a parent at the Village School told me, "What does your school have? Your school has nothing. At the Waldorf school we have..." yadda yadda, that was disrespectful and rude.

These are our children, all of ours. Isn't that what the whole "it takes a village" thing is allegedly about? So having Village in their name is a slap in the face.

Wacky Mommy

That should say "who we are."

Nicole

Exactly right, Wacky Mommy! That reminds me of the website for the proposed Montessori charter school. It says the Ivy school plans to locate in the North Northeast Portland neighborhoods "bringing peace and diversity to the community." As if peace and diversity is currently absent for our N/NE neighborhood and schools. Comments like those reveal a completely condescending attitude by the Ivy School organizers toward our neighborhood schools and the families in our schools.

Sereena, don't pretend that the "us" vs. "them" is being created by neighborhood school parents. We all know that many families choose charter schools and other special options simply to avoid a neighborhood school with a significant number of low-income or minority students. Yes, we're defensive, but it's in reaction to the "us" vs. "them" approach of the charter school proponents.

Sareena

"We all know that many families choose charter schools and other special options simply to avoid a neighborhood school with a significant number of low-income or minority students."

Wow. That doesn't even deserve a response.

You clearly have a huge prejudicial chip on your shoulder and are choosing to make generalizations about people you don't even know. Well done.

Most parents in Portland agree that there are huge problems with PPS, including their transfer policy. We simply see a different alternative to addressing issues, but since you're essentially labeling charter school families as classist and racist, I guess we won't be working together on resolving any issues will we.

Good luck with your agenda, I hope name-calling and finger-pointing serves your cause well.

Nicole

Sereena, You're being insincere on many levels. My "agenda" is quality schools for all PPS students. I'm thrilled to work with anyone with that same goal, including charter school parents who are willing to do more than justify and promote their own school. You had already made your decision not to work together to address problems with PPS. Don't blame me for that.

Wacky Mommy

Sareena, please. You're not answering questions here or reaching out, you're ducking the issues we're all bringing up. We want a decent education for all kids in Portland, not just our own -- how are you helping with that? Do you have a teachers' union at Emerson? Yes or no? Why not? If the teachers wanted to unionize, would you stand behind them? Would the administration?

Are the teachers at your chid's school paid a fair, living wage? Are they certified? Do they have a retirement plan through the school?

Is your community working for the greater good? If so, how?

Who's the one at the school "with the haves, not the have-nots," to paraphrase the principal of Humboldt? It's not us. And fyi -- my kids have 22 & 25 students in their classes and are not doing worksheets.

Sareena

"I'm thrilled to work with anyone with that same goal, including charter school parents who are willing to do more than justify and promote their own school. You had already made your decision not to work together to address problems with PPS."

Nicole, you just contradicted yourself. How are you thrilled to work with me to address issues within PPS when you've essentially washed your hands of me and other parents in charters.

Wacky Mommy, you as well as Steve, brought relevant points that I think many parents in charters would be interested to discuss if not approached in a hostile manner. Yes, I would support unionization, and can't answer questions that could be answered more directly by the teachers and administration at Emerson. I do know that my daughter's K/1 teacher holds a Master's Degree and that we have many other educators who send their children to Emerson.

Are you asking about our school's community? Our children do fundraising efforts and donations for the children at The Community Transitional School, which serves children of Portland's homeless or transitional families.
They don't stay home on Martin Luther King Day, instead doing public service.

As for our family, we live in an apartment in Irvington and still attend the Irvington Elementary auction and other fundraisers and our kids still play with the other kids on the block. We haven't abandoned our community and certainly didn't enter the Emerson lottery to be away from people of our own economic status or race.

My issue here, is that some people seem to be willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I'm a native Portlander and went to school through PPS, including middle school at Portsmouth. I don't support PPS' open "School Choice" transfer policy and frankly see many of the points made.

I do not, however, think that charter schools are inherently bad and I think it's ridiculous to make scathing generalizations about parents in charters. It's just as insulting as someone saying a parent whose children attend a neighborhood school in N/NE Portland don't care about their child's education.

megs

All the other reasons not withstanding, one reason I see as a teacher to not endorse charters is that in many cases a quality education is NOT provided, then it us, the public school teachers, who end up picking up the pieces and putting them back together. I have seen more than one child enter third grade after attending a charter or waldorf school, and being unable to read. Then we are expected to get them up to benchmark so they can pass all those standardized tests required under NCLB.

Sareena

Well, Megs, seeing as the Waldorf method discourages children learning to read before something like age 7 or 8, that would make sense for them not to be reading. It's part of their method. It's not one I agree with, but it doesn't really apply to charters, which vary dramatically from one school of thought to another.

OldMama

aka Protest Mama (different computer) If nothing else, I am gratified to finally see a topic in Activistas with a bunch of comments, YAY!

AET

I am including a report of a speech that Coretta Scott King gave in 1999, strongly criticizing vouchers. I think her logic can also be applied to charter schools and other attempts to privatize our public schools. Why is a good education no longer a right and has become a privilege that only a few can attain?

I am not criticizing individual people for just trying to get a good education for their children. I no longer send my daughter to public school. But we must unite to take back our PUBLIC schools from the corporate, anti-union forces that dominate now.
Really though, we are fighting over crumbs! Who gets the bigger crumb, you or me? I don't care where you send your kid, but at least understand that public education is vastly underfunded and the people in power are giving out little privileges like magnet and charter schools to the middle class white families to shut them up and distract them from the reality. And here is the reality: The truth is that there is a war raging on that is lining the pockets of a few rich people. The ruling class sees most kids as cannon fodder.Butchering Iraqis is far more important to them than funding education adequately. The government here is approaching fascism. Meanwhile the old "divide and conquer" is working well here in our little microcosm. Forget arguing over Waldorf vs. Constructivism or neighborhood vs. Magnets. That's all a distraction.
ALL kids all over the world deserve far, far more.

Inadequate funding of education is a destructive trend: Coretta Scott King

Calls vouchers 'a shameful disservice to children'


Capital Times editorial:
Vouchers vs. justice

The most destructive societal trend for young people today is the inadequate funding of public education, civil rights activist Coretta Scott King said Thursday (October 28, 1999) in the keynote address at the 1999 WEAC Convention. (66-second audio clip of Coretta Scott King's comments on the value of public education)

"I don't know what it's like here in Wisconsin, but in my home state of Georgia schools are beginning to look more like trailer parks than citadels of learning," she said at the Milwaukee convention.

Policymakers who criticize the cost of education are shortsighted, she said.

"By almost any measure, education is the most cost-effective investment taxpayers can make," King said. "Letting schools deteriorate will end up costing a lot more."

King spoke out strongly in support of arts and music education.

She lashed out at private school voucher programs, saying strong public schools are an essential element to American society. "Anything that undermines them does a shameful disservice to children," she said.

She said she has nothing against private schools, but "I see no good reason private schools should be subsidized by taxpayers."

Voucher programs, she said, detract from the real issue: that every public school should be able to provide the best possible education for all children.

There are many ways to strengthen public schools, she said, including increasing parental involvement and increasing the use of technology in schools. But the best approach toward improving education "is to have more public school teachers and reduce class sizes," she said to a sustained applause.


Coretta Scott King visits with WEAC Board members following her keynote speech at the WEAC Convention. Here, she shakes hands with Tjuna Eggson, a member of the Milwaukee Educational Assistants' Association. Eggson works at Clarke Street Elementary School.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Studies support the common sense logic, she said, that teachers can do a better job in reaching kids in smaller classes.


The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of love, forgiveness and reconciliation is very relevant in today's society, she said.

"We must begin to more aggressively teach the values of American democracy," she said.

King praised the profession of teaching, saying teachers do not receive the recognition they deserve.

"You make the difference in so many lives. You don't know how many because few will come back and tell you, but many will remember," she said.

"Teachers in America are the unsung heroes and 'sheroes' of democracy."


AmyS

Wacky Mommy: Enough with the retirement issue ("Do they have a retirement plan through the school?"). You know very well, because I told you, the state law (338.135) requires that "a public charter school shall be considered a public employer and as such shall participate in the Public Employees Retirement System." That's PERS and I don't know anyone who has PERS and also has another retirement through their employers.

Becky

One thing that I find troubling is that charters get to trumpet their small sizes and "community" while public schools are supposed to "grow or die."

Is it fair? How can PPS close so many schools because of falling (or as it turns out not falling) enrollment and yet open more charters?

MWF

As lesbian parents, we appreciate that there are options for our child's education. Public Schools are not often well equipped to meet the unique needs of all students, all families. Believe us, we know, we're public school teachers (and one of us works in Beaverton, Wacky Mommy).

Wacky Mommy

AmyS,
Dang, sorry! I didn't get it when you tried to explain it before, re: PERS. I thought you said it was optional for the charters to pay into PERS for the teachers, that if they did pay, the teachers would not be getting as much retirement $$$ as the unionized teachers, if they got any.

I got your yadda-yadda mixed up with Heather Straube's, and it was all in there with her explanation of health benefits. I believe she said they would offer $$$ for alternative health care, but didn't commit to traditional health coverage. I love my acupuncturist, but if I get cancer (God forbid) he won't provide chemo.

Savvy?

MWF,
If you find a school that meets everyone's needs, all the time, please let me know.

Wacky Mommy

ps -- Heather Straube, who is trying to get New Harvest Charter up and running in North Portland, is who I'm referring to. I personally do not want another charter over here and many other parents feel the same.

I want the existing nearby schools -- Astor, Rosa Parks, James John, Portsmouth, Peninsula, George, Sitton, Roosevelt -- being given some attention and energy and not forgotten.

We already have too much chaos over here with Trillium, the Waldorf charter, the proposed Montessori school, PLUS the mess at Jefferson with SEI wanting to throw their weight around, along with Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, and the academies. And the new plan to get something big going with PCC.

There has been talk of moving Humboldt. It is too much to throw at North Portland, all at once. And it does bother me when people pull this whole, "We're here now to save you from yourselves," thing. The "urban pioneers," etc.

(Heather Straube claims she knows the neighborhood, that she is a 20-year St. Johns resident, but I thought she was my neighbor when I lived in SE? Didn't she live off Hawthorne for a long time? Anyway...)

Plus we're smarting from De La Salle (private Catholic) going into former Kenton Elementary and knowing that the space is lost to us. (PPS gave them a 20-year lease, did someone already talk about this earlier?)

Sorry, obviously this is on my mind. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just bummed out.

Kaaren

Hi, I direct Oregon's Charter School Development Center (CSDC), http://www.chartercenter.org/or. CSDC works with charter developers, operating charters, district sponsors, the legislature and other key public K-12 education stakeholders. I haven't read this entire thread yet, but since this is my geeky niche, I would like to make a few comments:

1. Re: Oregon charter basic figures: As of this fall, Oregon has 80 charter schools; about 10,000 students attend charters in Oregon. Portland has seven charter schools. The list of charters sponsored by PPS is at http://cms10.pps.k12.or.us/www.pps.k12.or.us/depts/charter_schools/list_charter_schools_html.html. The list of all Oregon charter schools is on our website: http://www.chartercenter.org/or/schools_list.html.

2. Re: legal status, charters are public schools. This is true in every state that has a charter law (41, plus D.C.), however every charter law varies significantly, so what may be true in other states is not necessarily (i.e., usually) true in Oregon. Oregon charter schools must be Oregon non-profit corporations and tax-exempt (under IRS code 501(c)(3)).

3. Re: unions and teacher quality, Oregon charters are not "anti-union." The distinction (in this area) between charters and traditional public Oregon schools is that union membership is optional rather than mandatory; charter staff may join the unions of their sponsoring district or form their own collective bargaining units (per law). 50% of the FTE (combined FTE of teachers & administrators) must hold TSPC licenses; the intent is to provide flexibility that allows local/resident experts to teach. ALL teachers of core subject areas in charter schools must meet the SAME "No Child Left Behind" qualifications that all other public school teachers must meet. So, they have to have a Bachelor's Degree, pass subject-matter competency tests, etc. (even those w/o licenses).

4. Re: research on charter student demographics, achievement, etc., as you can imagine, unbiased research is hard to come by. One of the best sources is the Center for Reinventing Public Education, housed at UW, www.crpe.org. I higly recommend their research.

5. Re: politics. In some states, and for some people, charters are a right-wing conspiracy to privatize public education, a precursor to vouchers, etc. However, in most states, charter movers and shakers are liberal progressives. In my opinion, based on 18 years in public education, six of which have been in leadership in the charter arena, charters appeal to both conservatives and liberals for different reasons. I believe that they provide choice within the public school system.

7. Re: student enrollment in an Oregon charter school, it is by lottery, so charters do not serve just a small community of parents. They must accept all who apply on a space-available basis. Now, they can somewhat control who applies by how they conduct outreach and marketing, but most charters serve a fairly eclectic student body.

8. Re: funding, Oregon allocates a certain dollar amount per student, and those funds follow the student wherever they attend, within the public school system. Charters are public schools, so they do not "take away" from public schools (since they ARE public schools). Charters receive about 1/2 the public funding that non-chartered public schools receive; charter students receive a portion of the State School Fund (80% for K-8 students and 95% for 9-12 students) and do not receive special ed funds, federal title funds, captial funds (and cannot pass bonds), etc. School funding is complex, and certainly inadequate, so all public education supporters need to work together to "increase the pie" for ALL Oregon public school students, including those in charters.

8. Re: charter models and quality, every charter is different. In order to determine the quality, an in-depth review of educational and operational components is necessary. Generalizations are not particularly accurate/meaningful.

OK, that's enough from me for now. I meant to be brief, so please pardon my verbosity. I'd be happy to field questions/serve as a resource, etc.

Lisa

Kaaren, great info - thank you for taking the time to add it to this discussion. Clearly parents have strong opinions & emotions on this topic - and understandbaly, as there are a lot of issues wrapped up in school choice. I hope that this conversation will help each of us make a more informed, thoughtful decision that jives with our individual beliefs when our turn comes. It has sure helped me.

AmyS

Wacky Mommy: May I suggest that you read the Oregon Revised Statute Chapter on Public Charter Schools http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/338.html so all the "yada-yada" doesn't confuse and you really will know your "sh*t". I quoted the ORS twice, not sure where all your assumptions about "optional" came from so I'll also suggest that you read the "yada-yada" posts carefully and try to show a little respect for others. ("Savvy?" Really?)

Wacky Mommy

For anyone who is interested, we started this discussion a few weeks back here:

http://morehockeylesswar.org/blog/archive/2007/09/03/pps_divestment_by_cluster/

and here:

http://morehockeylesswar.org/blog/archive/2007/09/16/up_bubbles_the_charter_schools_question/

Here is the quote from Heather Straube, re: (possible) benefits at New Harvest School. (This is from Steve's blog -- she asked Marcia to post it for her):

"An e-mail from Heather who is too busy to Post:
Thanks, Marcia. We will do PERS and benefits. They may not be at par but we will also provide free/sliding scale alternative health services as we are a health focused school.

I hope this helps.

Heather"

mary

Wow Wacky Mommy - i just wonder how you can have this quote on your blog-

“The responsibility of tolerance lies with those who have the wider vision.”
– Shelley

And then go one with this:

"The mis-named Activistas over at UrbanMamas are having Big Meaningful Talk re: Charter Schools. Yadda yadda blip. I must tell you, UrbanMamas has never really “spoken” to me. It’s all, you know, a certain type of mother, who dresses her kid in cunning little hats and stripedy clothes and has people over for brunch."

Clearly you haven't met me.


lauralye

The quote is from Eliot, not Shelley.

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