Monday, April 30, 2007

Has Ken Neal Even Visited a Charter School?

I wonder if Ken Neal has ever taken the time to visit a Tulsa charter school? Do you think he called to verify his facts before launching this diatribe?

A central point he missed that is germaine, is the fact that CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS! As such they are entitled to state funding as part of our constitutional mandate to provide a free and appropriate public education.

Mr. Neal foresees an explosion of charter schools if this legislation is passed. Is that a bad thing? But more to the point, in the same time frame (since 1999) when the Oklahoma Charter School Act was passed, we can see what might have happened in Tulsa, by looking at what did happen in OKC. Due to the TPS Board and Tulsa Technology's refusal to sponsor any charter school, Tulsa has just 3 charter schools, and OKC now has 10. This is a point I have made before.

What constitutes an explosion? I would foresee perhaps a half dozen in the next few years. And I do believe that there needs to be an incubator to provide some leadership on establishing and running of charters. I have the background and experience to help with this.

Ken Neal gets to the point though by stating that the "explosion" will lead to a drain on existing schools. Show me the money..... A charter schools' enrollment is included in the districts' totals for state funding allocation purposes, so the district is actually a pass-through entity. The district has no responsibility to educate any of the charter school students. What's the rub? For little effort they can keep up to 5% of the funding.

The plain fact is that the Tulsa charter schools are doing a better job, with substantially less funding. Charters have to rent or otherwise find suitable facilities for their school buildings with no additional funding, while we homeowners continually subsidize the traditional public school buildings. To help make up that difference, our government needs to find a funding source for charters to the tune of an additional $750 per student to help bridge that gap.

Contrary to what Ken Neal says, this bill is a step in the right direction. We need more potential sponsors for charter schools. What's wrong with Oklahoma Higher Education being a sponsor? Don't you think they have a strong interest in seeing a steady stream of qualified students entering their institutions? Perhaps Ken Neal doesn't understand the role played by the sponsor. It is a role of hands-off oversight and basically is a financial conduit between the state funding to the charter school. Unlike the situation we now have, under this bill, charters may actually find a sponsor that is favorable and nurturing to the charter school, instead of an antagonistic, adversarial relationship that now exists between school and sponsor.

The Tulsa Chigger urges you to contact your state senator and to throw their support behind this bill.

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