Saturday, February 2, 2008

School Choice or Choice Schools?

"School Choice" seems to be the fix de jour for public schools. (Personally, I think it's more of a focus-group tested political slogan than a real "fix.") Regardless, the Georgia House of Representatives, with some Democratic support, just passed HB 881, a bill that establishes the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. I have nothing against good charter schools, but while the title of this bill sounds benign enough, it's not. This bill creates a state commission, appointed by the Governor, the Speaker and the President of the Senate, with the authority to control how local boards of education spend a portion of your local property tax dollars. That's right. You heard me. Bureaucrats in Atlanta, who obviously know more about what we need in Bibb County than we do, will be able to tell local boards of education that they must hand over local tax dollars to a Charter School whether they think the school is needed or not. Good thing Republicans are all about local control, otherwise they would've asked folks in Alaska to make these decisions. Read Maureen Downey's scathing review of this legislation here.

I don't think that there is a 'quick fix' for our schools and certainly not one that has a catchy title like "graduation coaches" or "parental recruiters." Here's a quick rule of thumb-if it can fit on one of those slick political mailers, it's probably not worth a damn. The real "fixes" involve funding what you say you think is really important, reducing the paperwork for teachers so that they can actually teach, decreasing reliance on these bubble-me-in tests to measure progress, doing all we can do to attract and retain great teachers-and then supporting them by allowing them to control their own classrooms. With HB 881, we may get more school choice, but I doubt that we will really get more choice schools-and isn't that what we're really after?

1 comment:

Tina said...

Regarding the excessive testing that goes on in Georgia schools:
(1) I would like to see any Georgia legislator take the tests that our high schoolers must pass. Any volunteers? (2) If a farmer wants to fatten his stock, what should he do...feed them more or weigh them more? Our students are being "weighed" too much vs "fed."
(3) As a former high school counselor I can vouch for the fact that too much time is spent on preparing for state tests and taking and re-taking state tests.
(4) Kids who fail the tests are more likely to drop out.