The Truth about Charters

The Truth about Charters

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Kerii Landry-Thomas, a graduate of Northside High School, is a Baton Rouge attorney. She began researching charter schools while investigating education options for her own child.

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Kerii Landry-Thomas

I have received numerous advertisements for the new schools opening up in the Baton Rouge area. If you listen to Pandora radio, then you too would have been bombarded with the commercials. I’ve heard of the small class sizes, great teachers, culture of academic achievement and the new computer labs that will be made available. Conversely, the commercials don’t state historically high teacher turn-over rate, the lack of books and other resources, and the lack of oversight for these charters. Moreover, most people don’t know that charters can do absolutely nothing during their 3-5 year contract and still get their public funding. In addition, they can pack up and leave if they don’t want to stay in the “local market” or set up under a new name and a new concept and get another contract from the local or state government. All while taking public funds from public schools. I discovered this information by reading and asking questions of both former teachers who worked at charter schools and former parents whose children attended. Charters are a sneaky way of privatizing education and financially enriching a few off the backs of the many.

Too often, “the many” are low income minority students whose parents or guardians may not ask a lot of questions because they have full faith that the charter schools will do what is advertised. In addition, it is easy to persuade someone to come to the shiny, new building with no track record if that person is searching for a better option than they believe is available now.  At issue for me is the fact that charters have limited accountability compared to their public counterparts. Charters are not under the same obligation that public schools are to have policies that foster diverse school settings. Charters are not constitutionally mandated to provide an education to all students and charters have no obligation or loyalty to a community. The profit motive is the driving force and is paramount in their decision-making process. In addition, recent trends in Louisiana indicate that charters tend to pick the students who require the least maintenance possible and expel those that might not be able to meet academic test standards or those who have learning disabilities. After “cherry-picking” which students they wish to service, students with the most needs are sent back to public schools absent the state funding needed to provide services for them. (i.e. kids with behavior issues likely need extra tutoring, counseling and other additional support).

The purging process begins, usually after October, which is the time that schools receive funding from the State. Trend analysis of enrollment data for school systems with a significant charter presence clearly demonstrates that the enrollment numbers of public schools in the area go up after October. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I believe that the confluence of Common Core standards, high stakes testing and SPS (school performance scores) are clearly being used to demolish public schools and foster an environment primed for private charter school.

I implore my community to please pay attention and look beyond the used car salesman pitch from the private charter companies that promise “achievement”, “rigor”, and “an assurance that all kids achieve”. Here’s a question, observe if any of the folks promoting charters actually send their kids to charter schools. Heck, the folks making decisions about public schools don’t send their kids to public schools (e.g. Chas Roemer, president of BESE). Public schools are not perfect, but what they provide is a guaranteed opportunity for education for all kids, a mechanism for communities to participate in the direction that education will take and accountability. We don’t want power, especially the power of education to be in the hands of a few and that is where the private charter road leads if we don’t take a stand now.

The myth behind public school failure

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In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

Read here.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

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VP Barras is a veteran teacher at Lafayette High School.

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VP Barras

In the movie Network, Peter Finch said a line that has now become immortal: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Frankly, that’s me right now, and here’s why.

On March 27th, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce listed its priorities for the legislative session, and among them is its support for Common Core.

I then thought, “Oh great. Another organization is trumpeting its support for Common Core.”

If I were to write a manual telling doctors how to operate, people would laugh and doctors would rightfully ignore me. I have not attended medical school nor received the training a doctor needs.

Yet organization after organization with little or no educational background thinks they are experts on education. The Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children Louisiana, and the Louisiana Association for Business and Industry, just to name a few, have all published their support for Common Core.

Apparently, merely having attended school or college—or simply having a child—affords everyone a seat at the table to determine the future of education. Worse, everyone listens to these organizations and not the teachers themselves.

I am a highly-qualified teacher with two Bachelor’s degrees and a Masters in History. I was chosen the Outstanding Sophomore, Junior, and Senior in UL’s College of Education, not to mention the Outstanding Graduate of its 1992 Spring Commencement. I have experience writing curricula and have taught Algebra I and II for twenty-three years, as well as numerous history and English classes.  I am an expert on education, not these various groups.

To every organization that announces their support of Common Core, I have a right to explore your qualifications and biases. Have you received money from Bill Gates or any of his organizations? Are you teachers who have implemented the Engage New York curricula that was designed to match Common Core? Have you actually read the poorly-written modules we teachers have received or taken one of their confusing tests? Are you experts in the cognitive abilities of young children and adolescents? I suspect the answers to these questions are a resounding NO.

And I have upsetting news for these organizations who don’t even bother to explore what is in Common Core: the people who wrote it weren’t experts either. The twenty-seven authors were mostly test-makers, and none were teachers. Why should I give their handiwork any credibility when they lack the credentials to even be classroom teachers?

So, should any new organization wish to herald the need for Common Core, I have these words of advice: unless you’re qualified to speak on the subject, mind your own business. Otherwise, I will accord your opinion the weight it deserves: little.

Lafayette chamber reveals legislative priorities

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The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce announces its support for several education bills that don’t align with the best interests of our schools, students, teachers — and which in some instances run counter to the votes of our elected school board representatives. Read here.

Why do teachers leave the toughest schools?

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Veteran teacher Kirsten Ragatz of Minneapolis explains what leads to teacher retention difficulties in high-poverty schools. “I have taught children who had no food at home, were the victims of sexual abuse, were homeless, or had experienced serious trauma, and my experiences are not unique in any way. My colleagues all have stories to tell. The teachers I have worked with love children, and they love teaching. We all have had more joyful moments than

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Nancy Mounce: State-level solution not needed for local-level problem

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Rep. Nancy Landry’s proposed bills would enable unelected officials to have control of Lafayette’s school system. Read here.

Editorial: State legislation not the answer to school problems

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Rep. Nancy Landry’s proposal to replace elected representatives on our school board with appointed ones — which would affect only Lafayette Parish — is poorly considered and should not pass. Read here.  

Editorial: Evaluations for teachers must better reflect teaching efforts

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An editorial from The Advertiser suggests that tying 50% of a teacher’s evaluation is unfair, considering how many other factors are essential components of effective teaching and student achievement. PPEL’s voice is represented by co-founder Ann Burrus. Read here.    

Shocking loss of teachers in Louisiana due to incompetence

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Rudy Espinosa’s comments about Lafayette’s dire teacher retention problems were published by national ed policy expert Diane Ravitch. Read here.