Kimberly Kunst Domangue is a teacher in the Lafayette Parish School System.
I appreciate your commitment to the education of our children, as evidenced by your years as an educator and continued professional development in education. You are a role-model in this respect, truly.
I ask that you would consider some thoughts your piece brought to mind. First, you stated that “many of our schools were failing students” as the impetus for the charter school movement. Yes, charter schools were to be “laboratories” to provide alternative means of educating those hard-to-reach students, using the methods that were linked to positive academic outcomes in the traditional public schools to benefit all children. That goal, though touted as the continuing rationale for charter school expansion, does not seem to be the primary driving force any longer. Now, advertising campaigns by charter management companies create “customer dissatisfaction” in parents, just as retail sales are driven by creating a perceived need for a product.
This leads to my second issue, which is with your assertion that money should not be involved in the discussion of the education of our children or the presence of charter schools. Unfortunately, we live in a reality of limited resources, where through generations of poverty, discrimination, and inequality of access to resources we have created a situation in the south where there are more “failing schools”. The reality reflected by research is that when student demographics that include poverty are taken into account, schools tend to be “equalized” in terms of “performance”. In other words, when we compare “like” to “like”, traditional public schools tend to fare quite well.
My third point is that charter schools offer nothing innovative academically when compared to traditional public schools. The Lafayette Charter Foundation website reports that instruction is
“aligned to specific state standards and grade-level expectations”. The instruction in our Lafayette traditional public schools is based upon such rigorous standards and expectations as well. We have utilized formative assessment to guide individualized instruction within the planning and presentation of instruction, just as your site reports for your schools.
There were in fact two differences I did see when reviewing the website for your organization. First, there is the requirement of parental involvement: “Parents are required to commit to volunteer hours each year for the school.” Given that you state that your school will be available to all and will not discriminate in admissions, how will you address difficulties experienced by working single parents in fulfilling the volunteering requirement? Traditional public schools do not penalize students nor their parents for not being able to commit such time. Perhaps this is a wrong policy? If so, have you in your past experience in the public schools worked to correct it? The second difference I noted was the deliberate and systematic recruitment of businesses in the community to support the charter schools. If traditional public schools were given the same tools/support, “the rising tide” of support would help all students and families, yes? I can imagine the wondrous possibilities and positive academic/community outcomes had an equal investment by your current board of directors been made in the Lafayette traditional public schools. This truly could have been a “Win-Win” for all.
A last point I would like to share is that our Lafayette public schools are striving to instill character, self-determination, and personal responsibility through the implementation of “Leader in Me” in our schools. A program based upon Dr. Stephen Covey’s book entitled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, is right now being implemented in our schools. A goal of the program is to engender those same strong bonds of support between businesses and schools, once again providing benefit to the entire community. It saddens me that such a fine group of community leaders such as those on your board will not be available to help us create and strengthen these bonds. We could really have benefited from the wealth of experience and connections your group possesses. Unfortunately for us as we strive to continually improve our Lafayette community through the traditional public schools, your support is lost to us.