– Not a dime for Kentucky because we don’t have any
Down Houston, Texas, way, they just got a huge influx of money, $10 million worth, from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The cash will double the number of Knowledge is Power Program charter school seats in the city. That money will enable the KIPP schools, as they are known, to raise an additional $60 million more in bond money despite the currently very tight financial markets.
Why is Gates doing this? Vicki Phillips, director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says, “…charter schools have proven to be extremely effective at improving access to quality education.”
The Houston Chronicle adds that charters “…have gained popularity with their long school days, Saturday classes and track record of enrolling low-income, minority students in college.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky won’t get a dime from Gates for charter schools because our state doesn’t allow them.
Houston’s KIPP charters are now so popular that it will take a $70 million building campaign to house the additional 11,000 plus students who want into a Houston KIPP school but cannot be accommodated in the current facilities.
Why do Kentucky kids continue to miss out on the important public school option of charter schools while kids in Houston and in 39 states across the nation, especially low-income and minority students, are reaping major benefits?
“If you have insurance, you get taxed. If you don’t have insurance, you get taxed. If you need a life-saving medical device, you get taxed. If you need prescription medicines, you get taxed.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on the Senate Democrats’ health care bill
Far too many Kentucky kids are mired today in high schools that are not meeting their needs. These students often lose hope and often drop out. In some of the state’s most challenging high schools, the situation is so bad that studies by Johns Hopkins University actually label the schools as “dropout factories.”
Meanwhile, charter high schools in other states are starting to turn in remarkably good results. These charters are still public high schools, but they are freed from a lot of the red tape that often prevents regular high schools from succeeding with today’s students.
A recent example of the power of charter high schools comes from Providence, Rhode Island. The Providence Journal’s news blog reports two inner city charter high schools named Times2 Academy and Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy “maxed” their graduation rates at 100 percent in the latest Rhode Island state report. That exceeds the rate at the city’s most competitive secondary school and even surpassed performance at the suburban Barrington High School.
How did they do it? Smaller classes, individual attention and flexible schedules that allow kids to work and still study effectively seem to be part of the answer. But the real key is that without a lot of red tape restrictions, both of the Providence charter high schools are free to do whatever creative things they need to in order to accommodate their customers – the students.
Unfortunately for us, charter schools can only be created when the state specifically allows them, and that is a law Kentucky currently lacks.
However, at least two charter school bills are already pre-filed for the 2010 legislative session, and people who never knew the term before are now talking about charter schools frequently. For the sake of our kids, let’s hope the legislature votes in 2010 to give them the sort of advantage that kids in Providence already enjoy.
According to the latest Kentucky Department of Education nonacademic report, covering the Class of 2008, Kentucky supposedly graduated 84.52 percent of its high school students. Keep that figure in mind.
Well, the fact is that the formula used to fabricate that number was officially audited in 2006 and found unreliable. The real graduation rate in Kentucky is much lower.
How much lower?
We really won’t know for sure until the department gets its troubled Infinite Campus student tracking system up and on line for four years, perhaps around 2013 or so.
But the state of Oregon just got more honest with its citizens, and here is what the Oregonian says happened. The newspaper says that once more accurate reporting was conducted, “…only 68 percent of the class graduated within four years — starkly lower than the 84 percent graduation rate the state reported for the same class just two months ago, based on its previous, looser definition.”
Hmmm – 84 percent – why does that number sound familiar?
So, what happened in Oregon might be the kind of number change that will happen here once honesty finally overcomes an unfortunate tendency in our education circles to fool us with figures.
Kentuckians stood their ground and won against the governor’s “holiday tree.” What other Grinch-like policies with far-greater consequence would change with the same kind of vocal involvement of a passionate citizenry?
Click here to read the latest Bluegrass Beacon column.