Charter Schools - how do we get them?
Kay's Answer: We are one of only ten states left in the country without Charter Schools.
We spent over $4 billion dollars from the Education Trust Fund last year to educate nearly 743,000 public school students statewide. While we have enjoyed progress in a few areas like reading and math scores, we still continue to register low results in other educational measures year after year after year.
So here are some of my ideas to lay out a path for Charter Schools in Alabama:
First, after you elect me as Governor, I'll create a Charter Schools "plan of action." It'll be much like the efficiency models and tough decisions I made to improve the Treasurer's Office. It will focus on accountability and insist that students learn at high standards. As a basis of formation, we'll have a wealth of empirical data, along with the experience, counsel and expertise of people who have implemented successful Charter Schools programs around the country.
Next, I'm going to utilize the "bully pulpit" of the office to launch my advocacy of the Charter Schools agenda. I'll take the issue on the road all over this state in order to increase factual awareness. We'll also hold town hall meetings to organize and rally support from the people who want real reform.
After the plan of action is fully developed, I'll work with others to have the results crafted into a bill to submit to the legislature. The bill could be similar to that of Georgia's. The "Charter Systems Act" was introduced there to expand Charter School options for residents.
Georgia's bill allowed local parents, teachers and administrators to transform their school districts into districts comprised entirely of charter schools. Georgia's governor, Sonny Perdue signed that bill into law in 2007.
After passage of Charter Schools legislation here in Alabama, we could start out by experimenting with a small number of targeted districts in different areas around the state, rather than instituting a "blanket plan" statewide. After being in place for a set number of years, we would measure the results, evaluate the data, discuss lessons learned and work to make improvements as needed.
I'll help provide enough freedom from bureaucratic red tape to allow these schools to succeed while making sure that we have the proper accountability in place to close a failing Charter School, should one exist.
I would ensure that flexibility would be allowed for individual districts with successful rates of academic achievement. In other words, we wouldn't force every district to create Charter Schools.
But to do all this will require a collaborative effort. There will be certain, stiff opposition from teachers' unions and a few stubborn school boards and administrators. Still, support for Charter Schools already exists on both sides of the political aisle. When lawmakers witness a real mandate for Charter Schools, they'll partner with us to provide them.
Let me add this in closing existing public schools should welcome Charter Schools as an option, not a threat. Across the country, Charter Schools are helping---even saving--- fragile, vulnerable students who have the most serious needs. They are also proven to reduce the shift from public schools to private schools and homeschooling.
We can create our Charter Schools with the best ideas, the right plan and the resolve of our people. I invite you to join with me as I carry the banner and lead the cause!
The Benefits To You:
-Charter Schools allow parents a greater voice and more control over their children's education.
-Charter Schools can offer a quality alternative to homeschooling and expensive private schools.
-Charter Schools establish innovative ways to educate our students and increase our graduation rates. A more informed and educated individual produces greater success and prosperity for all.
Charter Schools - why we need them
As the only former teacher in the race for Governor, I personally know the needs of teachers and students in our classrooms.
Over the last 20 years, Alabama has doubled education spending. We've made some improvement, but not enough. Our high school dropout rate is the nation's sixth highest; our ACT scores haven't improved since the 1980's; and, one-third of our students who go to college require remedial classes when they get there just to bring them up to speed. Clearly, we need a fresh, innovative way to tackle these challenges.
It is my firm belief that we need Charter Schools. Charter Schools are, in fact, public schools, but they possess some important differences that give them an edge over the traditional public schools.
They're granted the freedom to try ground-breaking programs that get students learning at high standards. They're not entangled in the public system's administrative and bureaucratic red tape. In exchange for this extra freedom, a Charter School must meet certain performance goals, which are almost always higher than those of most ordinary schools.
If they don't succeed, they're forced to close. Underperforming, ordinary public schools rarely, if ever suffer that fate.
With increased academic performance, taxpayers actually receive value for expended tax dollars.
And best of all, Charter Schools provide real options and hope to parents and students of poor families, who desire a better education but can't afford a private school.
Charter Schools are already working in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Their students are more likely to have higher reading and math skills than those in traditional schools.
If they are successful out there, then I know they can work in Alabama, too!
How you would benefit:
(1) Charter schools offer alternatives and hope for students and parents who are trapped in poorly-performing schools.
(2) Charter Schools provide competition to the status quo of mediocre or under-performing schools by raising performance standards and delivering effective results.