Good day, CharterFolk.
I’ll get on to the final “401-Level” of Free, Public, Open to All in my next post. In the meantime, there are some “signs of the times” articles in the edusphere I’d like to highlight.
Let’s get to them now.
Signs of the Even More Greatly Disconnected Times
Long-time readers will remember that in my first post of 2021 …
… I posited that the overlap between the bare minimum that parents are willing to accept and what public education offers is getting smaller and smaller such that in many places there isn’t much overlap at all anymore.
I called it “The Great Disconnect.”
… I asserted that a rough beast is slouching toward the central offices of major urban school districts across the land, entities that, like the iconic building located on the Normal Street Campus housing the central administration of the San Diego Unified School District …
… are ensconced in fixity.
The building stands as a monument to an outdated stasis. Since the 1950’s it has been deemed seismically unsafe so it can never be used. Since the 1990s it’s also been deemed a historical monument so it can never be altered. It’s a combination of designations that puts the place in a state of perfect suspended animation.
This year my first post was about the iron cages of bureaucracy, regulatory constraint, and monopoly protection that have come to encase public education, not just in the United States …
… but around the world.
I followed it up with a part 2 …
… showing how parents across the planet are using great resolve and creativity to get their kids to alternative instruction as traditional providers of public education prove unable to rise to the moment.
These past few weeks, we’ve seen a number of major stories that are signs of these greatly disconnected times.
Last week, both the Washington Post …
… and the Wall Street Journal …
… wrote essentially identical articles about parents taking things into their own hands.
The Post used the term “Home-School Nation.”
During my days at High Tech High, I made a defense of home-schooling that others around the conference table thought a tad extreme. The next day my old boss Larry Rosenstock brought in a cartoon which he had doodled on to identify who was who. I’ve kept it on my desk ever since.
“I’m afraid your M.B.A. loses some of its lustre in light of the fact that you were home-schooled.”
Going from being the butt of New Yorker jokes to earning the moniker “Home School Nation” at the Washington Post.
Definitely a sign of the times.
In India, they call a similar phenomenon “Tuition Republic.”
The Journal used the expression “Teeny Tiny Schools” in their piece to describe the new opportunity some kids are accessing.
In India, they prefer “Micro-Schooling.”
Whatever terms we use, the disconnects are widening at ever greater speeds.
Parents are getting their kids to different options however they can.
In Arizona …
… and in Iowa …
… much larger numbers of parents signed up for new voucher and ESA programs than had been predicted.
Iowa’s final number turned out to be 29,000 applicants.
Iowa’s private schools only serve 9000 students.
So now there’s a scramble to open up more private schools.
As happens in any context where demand exceeds supply …
… prices are spiking, leading many to wonder:
Which 9.000 of those 29,000 are going to end up with seats?
A sign of the times.
From the northernmost realms …
… to the southernmost…
… from west …
… to east …
… to smack dab in the middle …
… traditional public schools have seen the hour come round at last.
It is no longer right to say that the rough beast “is slouching.”
It has slouched.
And you would think, with crises at this breaking point, necessity would be the mother of invention within traditional public schools. But ensconced as they are in their special form of fixity, they can do nothing other than cling to Normal Street harder than they ever have before.
Suing to stop new charter school laws from coming on line.
Threatening researchers who might surface failings happening within the system.
Carrying out witch hunts against parents wanting to start a new charter school.
The school district in Napa Valley, supported by CTA and myriad other status quo defenders, has been fighting for years to prevent Mayacamas Charter Middle School from opening. But despite all the new restrictions against new charter school growth in California, this scrappy little school has made inspiring progress …
… and against all odds, actually managed to open last week, to the great delight of Mayacamas parents.
But the district fights on hoping to shut the school down in its first few weeks, with a hearing happening next week …
… leading the district’s superintendent to pen the following:
A “welcome back to school message” criticizing Mayacamas parents …
… and encouraging as many district people as possible to turn out at the hearing and parrot her grievances …
… all while trying to explain away in an attached Q&A the massive fiscal reserve the district has built up during the pandemic that dwarfs any financial impact the little charter school might have.
Think of that.
Using your first message of the school year to 16,000 parents as an opportunity to beat up on a few hundred others seeking something different for their kids.
It’s simple bullying. The kind of behavior that, were a student exhibiting it on any playground of the district, it would be called out.
But adults exhibiting it within the central office of the district?
It’s just the normal behavior we’ve come to expect.
The sadly abnormal that has its grip on Normal Street.
Feeding a cynicism that hurtles us down the path toward “Home School Nation” faster and faster.
Because do you think there’s any way in the world that the parents of Mayacamas will bring their kids back to the district if the charter school closes after the way that they’ve been treated? And what do you think the other parents of the district are thinking having seen now how their own schools’ leadership will turn witch hunts on people for simply wanting something different for their kids?
All signs, sadly, of the greatly disconnected times.
We live in a time when traditional public education is sadly dragging our collective societal effort downward and to the left against the equity and excellence axes.
When what we need is the exact opposite: leadership pulling us upward and to the right.
In my view, there is no stronger potential force for leadership in public education regarding equity and excellence than charter schools.
The question becomes how we rise to a level of impact large enough to provide the leadership that is needed.
It’s the 401-Level of our work related to “Free, Public, Open to All.”
The “How” Level.
The topic I turn to next.
Hope to see you here.