Letter: Charter school proposal raises serious questions
To the Editor:
Abby Loberg’s letter in the Sept. 23 Sky-Hi News about a proposed new charter school for grades 6-12 in Fraser is worthy of serious discussion and action.
She raises important questions on how such a school will affect the existing public schools in the East Grand School District.
Here is some context on the issue:
On Oct.4, 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched a basketball-sized satellite into Earth orbit. The radio signals beeping from “Sputnik” were my generation’s “9-11” without the violence. It was a huge jolt to our national pride. The Russians got into space first! I was a high school junior then, and the media and political consensus of the time told me that my public school education was a bust.
It wasn’t a bust. Nevertheless, for years in the aftermath of Sputnik the message was that public schools had failed America. Thus began the ongoing ruse of public education being at fault for many of the country’s biggest problems. The “decline of public education” mantra took firm hold. In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education proclaimed in its report titled “A Nation at Risk” that America’s future was threatened by “a rising tide of mediocrity” in the public schools. Results from international tests comparing U.S. students with those from other developed nations seemed to confirm that mediocrity.
What was not challenged was the validity of those tests for our huge and diverse student population when compared to countries with much smaller and more homogeneous populations. Between Sputnik and 2002 public education took its critics seriously and pursued many reform efforts. Much experimentation occurred. Results, as expected, were mixed.
In early 2002 George W. Bush signed into law the biggest experiment of all: the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Before 2002 public education was highly decentralized, the domain of the states and their governmental subdivisions. It was largely funded by state and local taxes of various sorts. The federal Department of Education (DOE) had a minimum role in public education until NCLB. Over the last 13 years NCLB via the DOE has pushed a regimen of controversial testing, standards and accountability onto public schools that has disrupted and diminished long-established local control of education.
The DOE has also encouraged and subsidized the charter school movement in direct competition with the public schools: NCLB; vouchers; the charter school movement and its charter chains; the orchestrated perception of public schools’ failure to adequately educate our youth: all of these have combined to put the nation on the road to the corporate, for-profit, private takeover and replacement of local nonprofit public schools. It’s not a national conspiracy, but it hasn’t proceeded this far without involving some megarich families – Gates and Walton to name a few.
This is a bit of the context in which Abby Loberg’s letter challenges us to seriously question the need for a second charter school in the east half of this semi-rural county. What are the motivations of the proponents of this proposed charter school for Fraser? Are our existing public schools in Fraser and Granby really inadequate? The issue is complex, emotional, political, and most of all, affects our youth and their futures. We need to sort this out calmly, listening carefully and speaking truthfully to one another.
Hot Sulphur Springs
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