There has been a lot of “yes it will, no it won’t” discussion about whether the final rules for the federal ‘Race To The Top’ second tier stimulus money would require charter schools in Kentucky.
Even as the final rule release grows close (perhaps this week), it looks like the Kentucky Department of Education isn’t really sure what the wording will look like, but according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, David Cook, the state department of education’s guru for ‘Race To The Top,’ says that if we want the money, we may have to implement charters, or something like them, at least in our lowest performing schools.
Cook says that education officials expect that ‘Race To The Top’ will require “a very much more extreme model of intervention than we’ve ever used.”
Absent the final ‘Race To The Top’ language, Cook speculated that changes could include releasing low-performing schools from many burdensome rules and regulations that currently hobble our educators’ ability to make changes that really work for kids. Schools might be closed and reformed as charters, or school staff might be replaced.
What is sad about this story is that after 20 years of KERA, the Kentucky Department of Education knows we have schools in such bad shape that radical new efforts are probably necessary. Those schools are out there, and everyone knows it.
Still, after 20 years of KERA, Kentucky’s own education establishment has never been resolute enough to stand up and say we need to make much more radical changes than anything we have done before.
If we finally get changes, it will be because the federal government finally had to step in to force us to do our own business. It will also only happen because we now have a new leader at the Kentucky Department of Education who doesn’t have a closed mind about charters and isn’t trying to undermine Race To The Top from the get-go.
That is a refreshing change from the past when Kentucky’s education crowd created every loophole it could to undermine ‘No Child Left Behind’s’ ability to create real improvement in Kentucky’s schools.
Some final notes:
Mr. Cook’s comments were made at the annual Prichard Committee meeting. Prichard has been fighting charters for years. I wonder if the Prichard folks will experience a sudden epiphany and come out in favor of this major education reform effort that is working in 40 states around the country.
Also, why should parents be forced to wait until their child’s school slides all the way to the bottom before they are allowed school choice? Why do our public education people continue to cling to the idea that they, not parents, should have the overriding authority to assign students to schools, and to protect those schools and their staff from making real changes, even if the schools are mediocre?