Friday, December 08, 2006

John Kirtley's comments

John Kirtley with some spot-on comments from my email this morning:

Thank you in particular for this comment:

This is especially tragic when much better schools (like charters, parochial and other private school) are often literally right down the block, in many cases struggling to survive for lack of resources, while we pour more and more money into our very worst schools.  THIS IS MORALLY BANKRUPT AND CERTIFIABLY NUTS!

I often have this conversation with education reformers. I have had the frustrating experience on many occasions where reformers (some with tons of money) say, “We are totally pro-school choice, but we only support charters.” Sometimes it’s because “it’s too hard politically to do anything but charters.”  But sometimes it’s because they let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Some only want low income parents to have access to KIPP or Amistad type schools. If only that were possible. But as you say these kids need help right now, and there is a school down the street that happens to be a faith based school that works well enough to get her kid to grade level in a couple of years. Why would a true reformer not want to help save that kid right now?

There is an existing inventory of schools in low income areas that can help kids right now. In the Florida tax credit program we have roughly 900 schools with an average tuition of $4,300 serving the 17,000 students on the program. Over 70% are faith based, but most are non-denominational. Most of these schools are in low income areas, and in most of those neighborhoods, you aren’t going to find a charter school—and certainly not (yet) a KIPP or Amistad school. You won’t for years to come. What do you tell the mother who has kids who need help right now? Wait until we can get a KIPP school to your neighborhood?

Whenever I argue that faith based schools cannot be left out of the reform equation, it’s not because I am eager for children to have a religious education. It’s simply because for most of the kids being poorly served by some public schools, faith based schools are the only existing alternative that might help them right now. To argue that you are truly pro-school choice and then say you only support charters is contradictory.

Keep up the great work,


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