Herculean efforts by labor bosses at Kentucky’s teachers unions to convince lawmakers that charter schools are neither needed nor wanted in the commonwealth have succeeded.
Our commonwealth remains one of only eight states without charter schools – publicly funded schools operated differently than the traditional public schools.
For example, the principal of a successful charter school doesn’t have to check with some overpaid bureaucrat at the central office to determine if the union contract allows him to hire the bright young math teacher sitting in front of him instead of being forced to employ a hanger-on coasting toward a big taxpayer-funded pension who long ago lost interest in teaching.
Also, teachers at the nation’s nearly 6,000 successful charter schools can stay past 2:45 in the afternoon - without risking the wrath of the union boss or jealous colleagues - to ensure that Little Johnny doesn’t get pushed into tomorrow’s new lesson without having fully mastered today’s material.
Such refusal to go above and beyond teachers union contracts goes a long way toward Little Johnny becoming Big John who can’t read or do basic math but nevertheless is wearing a cap and gown at commencement time.
In fact, many teachers at successful charter schools run by organizations like Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP academies) are required to make their cell-phone numbers available to their students so they can reach them 24/7.
Fortunately, the success that charter schools have with many of our nation’s most vulnerable children – those in danger of dropping out, selling drugs or who-knows-what on the street corner or, worse, landing in prison or the morgue – is not being lost on a constituency whose kids are falling through the academic and social cracks in our traditional public schools right here in Kentucky.
A new report by the nationally respected Black Alliance for Educational Options reports:
— Nine in 10 black Kentuckians believe government should provide parents with as many choices as possible to ensure their children receive a good education.
—Black Kentuckians are like their fellow whites in that the more they know about charter schools – particularly that they help give lower-income black students trapped in failing schools more opportunities – the more likely they are to support giving charters a chance in Kentucky.
This groundbreaking survey should help shut the mouths of those legislative lions who claim to represent the black community in the Kentucky General Assembly but who allege that their constituents don’t support – or aren’t interested – in charter schools.
But black politicians, who represent primarily Kentucky’s urban areas, would be wise to pay attention to a couple of other results from this survey:
— Support for charters was highest among younger black voters with lower incomes and fewer years of formal education; opposition was strongest among blacks with higher incomes and more years of formal education.
The good news here is that support for charters is highest among those families most in need of options; the sad news is that too many successful blacks ignore the fact that too many of our black students bear the brunt of a failing education system.
Successful black businessmen and women are in a position to help, but too often selfishly don’t.
Politicians who oppose charter schools for flimsy reasons might want to reconsider their claims to represent the truly needy in their communities.
—There’s strong support for charters in each of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.
Reasonable Kentuckians statewide know our public-education system fails too many of our black and low-income students – a demographic that tests between 21 and 30 points lower than their white affluent and middle-class peers.
It’s unreasonable – and simply unacceptable – for their representatives in Frankfort to ignore the need for real options any longer.
Jim Waters is vice president of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.