Friday, December 23, 2005

Obstructing Progress In The Aloha State

Even though public charter schools are doing well in Hawaii, a state commission is reluctant to allow more charter schools to be created:
A task force that examined changes to the state's charter schools will not recommend lifting a cap on new startups, a disappointment for Gov. Linda Lingle, who wants the state Legislature to expand the experimental schools and give parents more choices in public education.

State lawmakers created the task force last session after a critical state audit found the charter school law was vague and led to a lack of oversight of the state's 27 charter schools. Charter school enrollment has surged over the past few years, and test scores show students often are doing as well or better than students in traditional public schools, but several of the schools have had management and operational difficulties.

The task force held public meetings statewide and heard strong support for raising the cap from the charter school community. Nine members of the 16-member task force wanted to encourage more new startups, but the task force had decided it would take at least 12 votes to approve a formal recommendation.

"There was a lot of sentiment in the charter school community based on waiting lists and based on the number of parents who want to send their children there," said Jim Shon, the executive director of the state's charter school office, who led the task force. "There is a lot of pressure out there."

There has been some support for lifting the cap from outside the Lingle administration and the charter school community. In October, the Hawai'i State Parent Teacher Student Association, which represents parents, endorsed the idea at its annual legislative meeting. This week, the state's Economic Momentum Commission recommended a pilot program that would allow public schools on military bases to adopt the standard curriculum used at U.S. Department of Defense schools worldwide. The commission suggested the schools could convert to charter schools and that the cap should be raised.
I find it intriguing that despite this groundswell of parent support for charter schools, lawmakers continue to delay or even oppose the types of systemic changes that are necessary in order to satisfy all that pent-up parental demand for additional public school choice.

I wonder what percentage of Hawaii's lawmakers choose to send their own offspring to private schools in order to obtain a great education? Since I believe that the percentage is relatively high, I think that I understand why there may be no sense of urgency in addressing the parents' wishes.

All children should have access to an excellent public school education regardless of family income. An excellent education delayed is an excellent education denied.

Public charter schools ought to play a significant role in progressive educational reform.
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