Honolulu Advertiser Second Opinion column by Cliff Slater
January 7, 2002
(1) Allocation to New Century Charter Schools Project - FY2000-01. . Office of the Auditor, State of Hawaii. Report No. 01-01. 2001.
(2) Fiscal Accountability Audit of the Department of Education: Analysis of Selected School Expenditures. Office of the Auditor, State of Hawaii. Report No. 00-14. 2000.
Why charter schools are hated
Their very success shows the superfluousness of the Department of Education
Some people question whether or not the Board of Education, the Department of Education and the school unions are really hostile to charter schools. Others recognize that the hostility exists but don’t understand it.
A few recent events have clarified the issue:
First, the BOE/DOE has decreed that the years spent teaching in Hawaii’s charter schools will not count towards DOE tenure and seniority as they do for regular public school teachers. The teachers’ union is making little effort to change this decision.
The obvious questions are: If the BOE/DOE supports charter schools as they say they do, why was it necessary, or even desirable, to make that decision? And if the teachers’ union leaders favor charter schools, as they say they do, why do they not defend the rights of their dues paying members?
Second, the DOE’s allocation for charter schools this year is only $2,997 per student (1) versus the $7,000 spent on regular public school students.(2) The difference is supposedly for services the DOE provides, many of which charter schools would prefer to decline. And charter schools were not even told of this allocation until after the school year started. If we supposedly want to encourage charter schools, why shortchange them? And why make life difficult by not telling them their funding allocation in a timely manner?
Third, DOE regulations now do not allow charter school students to play sports with regular public schools. Therefore, children inclined towards competitive sports tend to either avoid charter schools or leave them at an age when athletic competition becomes important. Why was this decision desirable?
These DOE bureaucrats’ actions are ones where they had a choice and they chose maliciously with a deliberate intent to hinder the expansion, and even survival, of charter schools.
Our legislators have not helped. In a recent ranking of the strength of the various states’ charter school laws, Hawaii ranked 33 out of 38; we have slipped two places from last year (3) and both the DOE and the education union leaders have lobbied hard to make it this way.
Why are our centralized education bureaucracy, our centralized education union, and our centralized Board of Education, all fighting charter schools?
It is simple. Think on it. Charter schools first started only nine years ago. Today across the nation there are 2,400 charter schools operating in 34 states serving 576,000 children.(4) Hawaii had only two charter schools until recently and now has 22 of them with more applying for next year.
But it is not just this surge of charter schools that disturbs the bureaucrats. Instead it is that they have demonstrated that they do not need the DOE or the BOE for anything but funding. Carried to its logical conclusion, where charter schools would be the norm and regular public schools the rarity, there would be no need for the DOE at all and the bureaucrats now know that.
Thus, their whining howls of protest, as epitomized in the writings of public school teacher and friend Tom Stuart, “The world OWES me—I paid my dues, went to all the meetings, traveled to symposia, attended the brain storming sessions, moved PLENTY of paper across my desk, said 'yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, sir', generated half truths by the cubic mile and smothered my conscience years ago in order to earn my 'team player' award, so now its MY TURN!”
So if you were wondering why the bureaucracy is hostile to charter schools, wonder no longer.
Cliff Slater is a regular columnist whose footnoted columns are at www.lava.net/cslater