The KJ on Charter Schools…


With the charter school bill on its way to the state Senate any day now, the Kennebec journal has jumped into the fray with shotgun blast of an editorial, aimed right at the charter-opposing educational establishment and their dutiful water-carriers in the legislature:

Supporters of the status quo are on the verge of winning the battle
against innovation at the Statehouse, where the umpteenth attempt to
bring charter schools to Maine is just about dead.

The bill in
question, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dennis Damon of Trenton, would
have finally allowed charter schools to be opened in the state. Maine
is one of only 10 states that still bar the independently run public

But such schools are apparently a threat to life as it
should be. That’s at least what a range of interests representing —
tellingly — superintendents, teachers, principals and school boards
told lawmakers in public hearings and work sessions. Charter schools,
in their view, will siphon money from public schools, drain away good
students and the state funding that goes with them, they’re elitist and
their establishment will lead to the closing of rural schools.

testimony from teachers, educational specialists and parents endorsing
charter schools, lawmakers were cowed into submission by the powerful
institutional interests and voted down the bill in committee.”

Cowed into submission is precisely the phrase for it.

Anyone interested in why Maine trails the nation in meaningful educational innovation – why we are one of the few states without charter schools, why we continue to argue about high school diploma requirements years after most states have settled the issue, why we stumble from one assessment system to another – need only spend a few hours in the Education Committee room.

Don’t bother studying the legislators, look rather at who is sitting in the audience. No matter the bill being debated or the subject being discussed, the “three musketeers” of the education status quo will always be there: Sandy MacArthur from the Maine School Management Association, representing the school boards and school superintendents, Steve Crouse from the Maine Education Association, representing the teachers’ union, and Dick Durost from the Maine Principals’ Association.

Together they form a solid wall of opposition to any kind of innovation that threatens their unrelenting grip on Maine’s schools.  Against school choice. Against charter schools. Against new pay models for teachers and administrators. Against alternative teacher certification programs. Against the school budget validation process. Against tough standards and greater accountability.

From the KJ:

We challenge the Legislature: If you don’t have the courage to stand
up and beat off the prophets of doom who are so scared of charter
schools, then just reject the bill.

Alternatively, do the right
thing and vote for a robust experiment in charter schools, as the bill
originally proposed. Maine’s children deserve the best teaching we can
give them and, lest we forget, that’s why we have schools — for our

For the forces of the status quo, though, it isn’t about the children. It never is. It is about the adults in the system and what is best for them.

Not a single parent spoke out against public charter schools at the public hearing. Not one. Rumor has it that new polling data, soon to be released, shows that 70% of Mainers support public charter schools. Charter schools are in place already in 40 other states, and the Obama Administration is calling on states to create even more charter schools.

Yet, despite all this, the charter school bill is likely headed to defeat.

The KJ knows why, and now, so do you.