The last major education meeting of 2014 happened yesterday, and it was a doozy! As I look back at all the events of 2014 in our 1st state with regards to education, I have to wonder about the future. There are several things going on simultaneously. Something happened yesterday at the DE State Board of Education meeting that can change everything.
The board voted 4-3 to renew the charter for Gateway Lab School. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s comment about why he chose to renew their charter stemmed from about a month of the public pounding on the choice not to renew. This means the public does have a voice and is able to influence education in Delaware. The problem is not enough of us have been using that voice. If the groundswell of support for Gateway happened with things like the removal of Common Core and parental opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just think what could happen.
Over half of the Delaware General Assembly wrote to renew Gateway’s charter. Some of them were ones who already speak out about the changes in education and the priority schools. But many of them are ones nobody ever affiliates with education. The Gateway crisis actually opened a lot of ears to education in Delaware. It also exposed the DOE as being to beholden to test scores. This is a good thing.
Our next moment of direct attention needs to be towards the priority schools initiative. While I’m not an expert on state code and the Delaware Constitution, I can see things are manipulated and twisted in order to allow the priority schools demands. Governor Markell and Mark Murphy have looked for the most miniscule of loopholes to do this, but did they find them all? Some, like State Representative John Kowalko, do not think they did and he has a strong case for the legality of the initiative.
Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment will be a hot button of talk in the coming months. More and more parents are waking up to the reality of this, and anyone who finds out what the true purpose of it all is wants it to be gone. A message for those parents: spread the message fast and furious and do it yesterday. Because everything the DOE and Markell have done, want to do and will do ties directly to standardized test scores. It is their sole focus. We are no longer a state where true education, occurring everyday in our schools, is a concern. It’s about a once a year test that will judge teachers, principals and students. And by a large default, parents as well.
I firmly believe the purpose of these “initiatives” is not for the betterment of our children’s education but the creation of more and more charter schools. Some may ask, “Then why are they closing charter schools?” Because even Super Bowl winners need to cut the weak links on a team. This becomes a reverse choice option for parents. They’re forced to make a choice against their original choice.
For the charter supporting parents out there: I know you will defend these schools and I support you for doing that. But do not be blind to the realities behind charter schools. They have boards that are not publicly elected, they have budget committees (or don’t in some cases) that do not have the proper representation, and their version of transparency is very clouded. Nobody was talking about Family Foundations a month ago, but in the past week it is all anybody is talking about. Years of financial mismanagement and allegations of outright theft at that school will hopefully lead to a careful examination of all the charter schools and how they spend their money. I am not saying all the charters do this, but it is more than you think. And I will expose them if the state doesn’t.
We need to do what is best for our children. Every single one of us. Far too many of us disagree on what the best course is, but we all need to come together one way or another, before any choice is gone forever.