Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Charter Obstacle

Another provocative WSJ editorial.  The only good news in this story is that, as a Democrat, for once it's not my party that's standing in the way of much-needed improvements.  Why can't the entire Democratic Party wake up and start embracing genuine school reform instead of usually behaving like this gutless governor?!

Nevertheless, when Ms. Rell presents her new budget next month, she's expected once again to ignore the education reformers. That's because she is running for re-election in November and is seeking the support of the teachers union -- the Connecticut Education Association -- which is dead set against charters and any other education reform that threatens its monopoly. With a job-approval rating that's remained well over 70% since she took office, Ms. Rell has the political capital to take on an entrenched interest that hurts poor kids. But she apparently lacks the political will.

According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress report, Connecticut has the country's largest achievement gap between rich and poor students in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. Given their successful track record, charters could help Connecticut close that embarrassing gap. Too bad its governor is missing in action.

Achievement First (which runs Amistad Academy) has been kicking butt using a model very similar to KIPP's, but the Connecticut charter school legislation is so bad that Achievement First is expanding in New York.  As a New Yorker, that's great news, but it's pure insanity for Connecticut not drive out its most successful school operator!

Charter Obstacle
WSJ editorial, January 4, 2006; Page A10

The politics of education reform typically features Republicans pushing for more choice and Democrats defending the status quo. But not always. In Connecticut, Democrats in the legislature are eager to expand the state's successful charter school model while GOP Governor Jodi Rell refuses to lift a finger to help.

Forty states and Washington, D.C., now have charter schools, which were devised 15 years ago as education laboratories. Charters are public schools -- a fact that opponents like to play down -- but they are not overly burdened by union rules and hence are free to try different pedagogical approaches. A charter might extend the school day, for instance, or pay teachers based on results rather than seniority.

As it happens, Connecticut boasts some of the finest charter schools in the country. In June, the Hartford Courant reported that at "New Haven's Amistad Academy, where 98 percent of students are African American or Hispanic, math and reading scores have risen to triple those of neighboring public schools and equal to scores in [wealthier and predominantly white] Greenwich."...

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