Charter School Equality

In February 2005, the Colorado State Senate debated a bill I deemed destructive to effective elementary education. I spoke against the bill on the senate chamber floor. The following day I was surprised to find excerpts of mine quoted in both the Rocky Mountain News and the Colorado Springs Gazette. Text follows.

 


My name is Glenn Miller, and I’m a founder of Colorado Springs Charter Academy, in School District 11.

I speak today in opposition to Senate Bill 71. It reverses critical reform, and thus harms children, especially those at risk.

CSCA, my school, is slated to open this fall. It will be a K-8 school, whose purpose is to promote academic achievement. More than that, its Core Knowledge curriculum is designed to close the achievement gap in academic performance between children from well-off and disadvantaged homes. Research is strong that shows Core Knowledge narrows this equity gap.

And there is a gap. In my district only 5% of black tenth graders are proficient in math. This is what the traditional public school system does to our children. The CDE calls this gap “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” You want to protect that?

Under the umbrella of current charter school law, and working with experts in diagnosing early reading disabilities, we’ve been able to devise a 3-tier, phonics-based reading program to identify and remediate at-risk children early—when it matters most. The district’s alternative of “Balanced Literacy” is a failed whole language amalgam that does not work—especially for African-Americans.

On November first, the CDE reported that proficient and above CSAP test scores for whites are typically 30 percentage points above African American and Hispanic scores. This is what the traditional public school system does to our children. You want to protect that?

But here’s the cure: we need reform, and … it already exists. It’s available in the structure of the current charter school law. Senate Bill 71 rolls back key provisions, it eviscerates a charter school’s fundamental standing, it places roadblocks in the way of further innovation. It takes … away … opportunities.

This is about local control. It’s about the ability of a hostile district to protect its status quo with enrollment caps, moratoria, and the catch-all justification that a new charter school might “adversely affect” an existing school district. Well, let’s hope so. When twice as many white middle school students score proficient or above than black and Hispanic students on reading and writing tests, these districts need a little adverse affect.

Be assured that the language in SB 71 granting local districts additional oversights and limitations is free rein for those districts to strangle the innovative spirit that is at the heart of charter schools. Hostile districts don’t want charters that threaten their funds and status. To say otherwise is disingenuous and coy.

At Cesar Chavez Charter Academy in Pueblo 100% of their 3rd graders read at or above grade level yet 68% of the students are considered poor and at-risk. This achievement does not happen in traditional public schools. Charter schools are the ones that, by design, meets needs that aren’t yet being met.

SB 71 reverses reform that has made possible successes like Cesar Chavez, and like CSCA hopes to be. It rolls back autonomy that results in academic achievement. It stifles choice and chances especially for our black and brown kids.

We see what the traditional public school system is doing to our children, and the painstaking progress that charter schools are making by offering alternative programs that work. SB 71 shields the failures of local school districts.

You want to protect that?


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