Good morning, CharterFolk.
Thanks to many of you for your responses to last week’s post about what CharterFolk is and isn’t. In it I highlighted that we’ve received recent match challenges for the next 100 people who sign up for paid subscriptions. We’ve now made it 20% of the way there, with all of the new subscription revenue being matched dollar for dollar. So to our 20 new paid subscribers, I say thank you! And to any of you who have been waiting for the perfect moment to join, isn’t now the time?
I wanted to return today to the theme I’ve been writing on since the beginning of January – The Great Disconnect of 2021.
There are different ways to express it graphically – one showing the extent to which parents and society are simply fed up with what the public education system is offering …
… or another showing how our wrongly prioritized needs in public education are resulting in a collapse of the Establishment as the disconnect plays further out.
I have developed some general principles for how we can overcome the Great Disconnect. I have also begun developing a test case showing how those principles can be applied. The test case I have been working on is my own hometown – Sacramento.
Unfortunately, the Great Disconnect happening in California’s capital city is turning into a massive chasm. Here is a story that came out just yesterday.
The thing that is crucial to remember is that Sacramento is not an isolated case. It is just one example of the broad chasm that is opening up within public education across the entire country right now.
While it is incredibly sad to see our public schools so profoundly fail our kids and families at a moment like this, it is also important that we recognize that times like this are when great progress can be made in our quest to make greatly more public education for all.
In my second post here at CharterFolk, I wrote the following:
The last time we had a major crisis in public education – the great recession of 2009-2013 – despite the fact that charter schools experienced disproportionate funding cuts in virtually every state in the country, we grew like crazy. Nationwide, charter enrollment grew 74% during that period. In California, it was 88%.
We are seeing a similar pattern play out during the Covid crisis as well. Charter school growth is accelerating across the United States.
From New York …
… to Idaho …
… to Florida …
… and North Carolina.
Seismic change is afoot in St. Louis.
New schools are being proposed in DC.
And in places where we have never been able to have strong charter school laws before …
… we see huge moments of opportunity arising.
Of course, all of these are signs of the Great Disconnect of 2021, as is, of course, the massive blowback coming from an increasingly desperate Establishment …
… doing all it can to limit parents from getting their kids better options in communities across the United States.
Perhaps the place in the nation that puts the Great Disconnect in its best perspective is Rhode Island. A few months back, in response to recently surfaced problems in Providence public schools, the state took over the district.
Soon plans were coming together to expand high quality charter schools in order to get improved opportunity to Providence kids and families as quickly as possible.
That, of course, led to predictable …
… panicked gestures from the Establishment to hold things back.
And as we all know, the Establishment has their beholden policy makers willing to do their bidding no matter how contrary it may be to the interests of kids and families.
How is this all going to play out? Will Establishment forces actually be able to stifle things in Rhode Island?
It’s too early to tell. But I would encourage CharterFolk to keep the following two points in mind.
First, the fact that the state took over the Providence public schools has without a doubt been a positive thing for kids and families regardless whether any new charter schools ultimately end up opening. You think there’s any way that Providence would ever have been one of the few school districts in the East to have remained open during the pandemic …
… if the state hadn’t taken over, giving Rhode Island’s courageous Governor …
… the leverage she needed to do right by kids?
So, there’s great purpose in simply pushing against the Establishment right now regardless whether it translates into wins for charter schools because, most importantly, the pushing is translating into wins for students and families.
Here’s the second thing:
Recall, CharterFolk, what it was that fundamentally changed the lay of the land in Providence:
This study …
… from Johns Hopkins.
With the publishing of their report, people finally saw …
… how unpublic Providence’s public schools have tragically become.
And, equally importantly, the public has seen the reason for hope that charter schools represent.
And they have seen the Establishment try to step in and quash things, to actually attempt to force parents to take their kids back to schools that have left researchers in tears.
This, is what the public is seeing during the Great Disconnect of 2021 – one massive nationwide Johns Hopkins study laying bare the tragic state of our so-called public schools. And the public is seeing how the Establishment is attempting to force parents to accept schools that leave many in tears.
It creates not a disconnect, but ultimately, a chasm.
One that is being seen across our entire political spectrum – from readers of the Wall Street Journal …
… to listeners to National Public Radio.
Our challenge, CharterFolk, is to remember the lessons of Rhode Island, to keep the harsh truth about our public schools front and center for all to see, and then to do all that we can to live up to what is expected of us at this moment:
To be a reason for hope, getting good things done for kids and families in as big of numbers as possible. Ultimately, when all is said and done, I am certain that the record will show that the progress that charter schools made during The Great Disconnect of 2021 will make the headway we made during the Financial Crisis of 2009 seem like a rounding error in comparison.
It won’t be an easy road, by any means, but it is the one that CharterFolk are expected to tread. As we always have since the beginning of our movement three decades ago, we lighten the load by supporting one another as we go.
I leave you with Milton:
“Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.”