Honolulu Advertiser Second Opinion column by Cliff Slater
January 10, 1997
(1) The Center for Education Reform lists thirteen "Charter school states that offer real autonomy." (http://edreform.com/pubs/chglance.htm). It describes the State of Hawaii as having a "weak charter law that brings few new options."
(2) "The teacher unions ... pay lip service to the charter concept but hedge it about with so many conditions and restrictions that any resulting schools will be clones of conventional public schools." Finn, Chester E. Jr. Teachers vs. Education. New York Times. August 24,1996.
(3) Gatto, John Taylor. The Exhausted School. The Odysseus Group. 1993. p. i
(4) Ravitch, Diane. Challenging Monopoly. Forbes. October 21, 1996. p. 5
(5) Finn, Chester E. Jr. Teachers vs. Education. New York Times. August 24, 199
(6) Quoted from Finn, Chester E. Jr., Louann A. Bierlein, and Bruno v. Manno. Charter Schools in Action: A First Look. Hudson Institute. January 1996. The home page of the Education Commission of the States is (http:/ /www .ecs.org/)
(7) "The solution is ... autonomy of principals and teachers freed of the dead hand of bureaucratic regulation from government and from school boards." Chubb, John E. & Terry M. Moe. Politics, Markets, and America's Schools. Brookings Institution. 1990.
(8) See Schmidt, Robert C. Historical
Statistics ofHawaii. University of Hawaii Press. 1977. Table 9.5 for
1950- 75 data and The State of Hawaii Data Book 1991 for 1980-91 and
The State of Hawaii Data Book 1995 (http://www.hawaii.gov:8080/databook/db1995a/03016.95)
(9) See note for teachers' salaries; cost per pupil is adjacent to it.
(10) Glenn, Charles L. Educational Freedom in Eastern Europe. Cato Institute. 1995. "One of the great triumphs of post-Communist Eastern Europe is the reform of statist school systems. Not only have the schools thrown off Communist dogma and attempted to remake themselves in a Western style, many of the formerly Communist countries have given parents a choice in schools. In fact, in Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic, parents now have more freedom to choose the schools their children will attend than American parents do."
(11) Hirni, James F. School Choice Programs What's Happening in the States, 1996. Heritage Foundation. 1996. Available at (http://www.heritage.org/heritage/schools/intro.htm1)
Hawaii needs charter schools
Over the past forty years we have had a gradual hardening of the arteries of the Hawaii school system. The only operation that can remedy this is a bypass—of the DOE.
Real charter schools are one way to do it. Thirteen U .S. states have spawned over 450 real charter schools in the last three years. Hawaii has none. (1) We have two of what we call 'child-centered' schools. These are sort of pretend charter schools-not the real thing.(2)
Real charter schools are ones where parents and teachers have joined together with a plan for independence and sought and won certification for independent funding. Typically, such schools nationally are free from collective bargaining constraints not only for teachers but also for staff members such as janitors and food preparers. Real charter schools are essentially one-school school districts.
Make no mistake; Hawaii's K-12 educational system is awash in money. Not for the way our DOE bureaucrats wish to spend it-but more than enough to give our children a superior education.
The $5,900 we spend annually per child is nearly $150,000 per classroom of25 students. A teacher costs only $40,000, so where does the rest of it go? As New York's Teacher of the Year puts it, "We are currently wasting 75 cents out of every school dollar on grotesquely bloated administrative budgets, on phony 'coordinators' and an army of other non-teaching teachers, on useless materials, political handouts, and a dozen other boondoggles." (3) As another example, in most foreign countries 75% or more of education staff are teachers. In the U.S. it is only 50% (4)
Contrary to popular belief charter schools across the nation are not for the affluent-they are more likely to be found in the inner city. A recent Hudson Institute survey of charter school students by former Assistant Secretary of Education Chester Finn shows that 63% are minority group members, 55% were poor, 19% had limited English proficiency, 4% were former dropouts and 19% had disabilities that affected their education. (5) According to a survey by the Education Commission of the States, "half the charter schools were designed to serve 'at risk' youngsters. " ( 6)
It is a great shame that the teachers' unions locally and nationally mislead us as to what real charter schools could do for both teachers and parents. However, a decentralized school system would take power away from the unions and the bureaucracy. They will fight any loss of power. (7)
The fact is that the teachers' union does not really represent the teachers. For example, it endorsed Milton Holt over Suzanne Chun-Oakland in the last election. Try finding a teacher that did so. As another example, allowing for inflation, teachers' salaries nearly doubled between 1940 and 1970. Then the Legislature passed collective bargaining requirements and teachers had to be union members. Since then teachers salaries have actually declined (8) in real money even though the expenditure per student has increased by over 80%. (9) The union has been too busy promoting bureaucracy over books and teachers.
Real charter schools would allow parents and teachers choices of both locations and teaching methods. Charter schools tend to hire teachers who truly believe in a particular school's philosophy. Thus, schools, teachers and parents tend to all mesh together in their beliefs in the methods used; they do not have the one-size-fits-all approach.
Such choice is important. At the moment, "in Russia ... parents now have more freedom to choose the schools their children will attend than American parents do." (10)
If Hawaii parents want charter schools it is important that they let their legislators know it. As the Heritage Foundation said in their recent review of charter schools nationally, "the legislative success of charter school legislation can be attributed to America's parents, no longer willing to tolerate substandard education for their children." (11 )