Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Jump Start for Tulsa's Public Education

We know that Tulsa Public Schools are failing and new leadership and ideas are needed. We also now know that Dr. David Sawyer is retiring and that two TPS School Board members are up for election early in 2006. We have city elections for mayor and councilors coming up next year. The time is ripe for change.

Into this situation, I would like to propose a type of charter school incubator. What I am talking about is a place where interested people could learn the skills necessary to propose, design and implement a successful charter school. I think this should be initiated by the new mayor of Tulsa next year. It needs the full weight of the City of Tulsa behind it.

With the aid of Tulsa, the incubator would find proper charter school buildings at no cost or low cost rent. There is plenty of space available for occupancy. It could aid in recruiting and training qualified board members, as each charter school must have an independent board to oversee the disbursement of public funds for education. Just these two areas, buildings and boards, would go a long way to solving two of the most pressing problems of charter schools.

Most rational people would ask themselves, how do I start a charter school? Those same rational people would need all the help they could get. And there is a lot of help out there. There are schools to design, curriculum to assemble, contracts to draft, teachers to hire, tables, chairs, and supplies to order. It is daunting. The incubator could help with all of this and have a place to put it all together.

With an incubator, charter schools would be perceived more as city or community schools, instead of neighborhood schools. As true schools of choice, students from all over Tulsa would attend them because they want to attend them, not because they have to attend them.

I am sure I could help arrange for some matching grant money to increase the number of charter schools in Tulsa.

Initially, OKC embraced charter schools and included them in their MAPS master plan. In the same time frame, OKC has opened about a dozen and Tulsa has been stuck at three since 2001.

Since charter schools challenge the status quo, and the status quo is so firmly entrenched in Oklahoma, charter schools in general have had an uphill struggle. They struggle with existing public schools, the teachers union, the TPS school board and so on. It is a testimony to Tulsa's three that they not only have survived, but flourished and the majority have overachieved.

Tulsa needs a push from the top leaders to get this reform initiative going here in T-Town. This is a creative and innovative way to begin to address at the city level the dismal state of public education. Tulsa will not flourish with increased economic development alone. Our public education system must be improved.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you. And I hope that Tulsan's Finally get enough together to make a good change for their children.

Thomas Roberts
Farmers Insurance Group
-Getting you Back where you belong

Anne Hutchinson said...

"...charter schools in general have had an uphill struggle. They struggle with existing public schools, the teachers union, the TPS school board and so on."

I really don't expect an answer, but, I'd like to know specifically how the teacher's union and TPS have made life such a struggle for charter schools. The three existing schools have had their charters renewed without any significant controversy. There has been only one application for a new charter school in the last 5 years and that one had to be turned down since it violated the state law prohibiting any grant of charter to a sectarian (religious) school. So, where's the struggle?