Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's the Strategy, Kenneth?

Gov. Chafee:

I believe that Rhode Island's public education system is good, but it can be better. Charter schools are just one piece of improving public education in our state. For that reason, where and how we establish charter schools must be a strategic process.

The Governor's comment is particularly on point considering this from the same day:

PROVIDENCE — Four mayors Tuesday urged Governor Chafee to support more mayoral schools in Rhode Island — public charter schools that involve mayors and other city officials in the education of students.

“We need to think about doing things differently,” said Cumberland Mayor Daniel J. McKee, who helped open the state’s first mayoral school in Cumberland in 2009.

At a State House rally, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and North Providence Mayor Charles A. Lombardi said they are considering similar schools in their communities.

So... let's say Providence gets a Cranston/Providence mayoral academy next year -- based on no input or participation from Providence officials. Then next year a Warwick/Providence mayoral academy -- with no input or participation from Providence. Then maybe a North Providence/Providence mayoral academy. Each of these planning on taking another 5% of our students and corresponding budget. All of this explicitly politically driven; but by the needs of suburban mayors, with Providence having no say?

And it is pretty easy to imagine each of these suburbs losing interest in these schools designed for high-poverty urban communities, particularly when new mayors come in. Picture a scenario where a new Providence mayor is faced with not only taking over the PPSD, but being required to chair the board of three separate, competing charter districts. Does that make sense to you?

What we're talking about here is a centrally planned -- by RIDE, the US ED, and RIMA -- 10-plus year regional reorganization centering on Providence. Posing as a disjointed series of individual initiatives, with the whole plan never discussed, if there is one. Frankly, there probably isn't one, which is even worse.

The fact of the matter is that the Achievement First proposal would be much stronger if it, like Blackstone Valley Prep, included four cities or towns. If Warwick wants in, they should be in on this proposal, and RIMA should find another city to participate. Get all four actively on board. Then you'll at least have a proposal for a school that's not designed to either collapse or be in a constant state of political agitation.

Yes, that would take longer, but you know what, whose stupid idea was getting mayors involved in the first place. Not mine. Don't blame me. It isn't a charter friendly law, it is a giant waste of time to the RI school reform movement. It is idiocy. Every time they hold a press conference with a bunch of posturing mayors, they're diverting their own attention from actually improving schools. Which is ok with me since I don't agree with their educational philosophy anyhow, but it offends my sense of efficiency and beaurocratic aesthetics.


“The mayors and administrators aren’t going away on this issue,” (Mayor Mckee) said.

Maybe, but the CMO's will. Democracy Prep already has.

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