OK-LA-HO-MA. Choice in the Sooner State may soon have more meaning if a bill that passed the Senate Education Committee becomes law. The measure, SB 560, would allow public money to follow students to private schools. That’s the good news. The bad news: the bill was amended to limit it to counties with 150,000 residents or more, so it would only apply to Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Standridge, said the measure is about opportunity and school choice for inner-city students—which leaves the question, “What about the rest of the state?” Still, it’s a step in the right direction, although some, like Deborah Gist, Tulsa Schools Superintendent (also former Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, and a founding member of Chiefs for Change) were having none of it.
“THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS CONSIDERING a first-of-its-kind federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions of dollars to working class families to enable their children to attend private schools, including religious schools,” so says Politico. The bottom line: “Details of how such a program might be structured are not known.” Still, it’s a nice synopsis of what might be in store in the weeks and months ahead.
WHOA, KENTUCKY! At the moment, Kentucky is galloping in the wrong direction in its quest for charter school legislation. Worried that a strong charter law might not be constitutional, the leadership has offered up an anemic, watered-down bill that will do more harm than good. But, legal scholars have determined that a strong bill IS constitutional so let’s back up and do this right. As CER founder Jeanne Allen said (along with a lot of other things) in her Courier-Journal op-ed today, “A quarter century of experience and the success of tens of thousands of charter school graduates points the way. There is no reason not to do this the right way, and enact a strong law in the Bluegrass state.” (By the way, check out the new page devoted to Kentucky on edreform.com.)
VOUCHERS v CHARTERS: “THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD VOUCHER BATTLE TO REFOCUS REFORMERS’ ENERGIES!” Sometimes when states drift away from some of the core principles of charter schools (like Oklahoma, for example, where increased administrative burdens are being placed on charters—pushing schools farther away from their intended focus, i.e. on kids, and toward one the primary ailments they set out to avoid in the first place, i.e. stifling bureaucracy) a discussion of the value of vouchers helps re-strengthen waning charter efforts. That may not always the case but the near Pavlovian negative response to voucher-talk that occurs in most states does seem to help make charters a more welcome alternative. In any case, it’s worth noting these voucher rumblings in Tennessee.
AND, SINCE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IT“It” being the aforementioned increased administrative burden being advocated for/placed on charters schools, you should read the February 8th EdWeek commentary “Untie Charter’s Bureaucratic Strings,” to learning how it is that “Charters are slowly morphing into bureaucratic, risk-averse organizations fixated on process over experimentation.”