Op-Ed: Connecticut does not need more charter schools

An Open Letter to the State Board of Education:

In light of the SBOE’s recent recommendation and request for $21 million for eight more charter schools and your continued support for expansion of the Commissioner’s Network, it is time to hold you all accountable for the inequitable allocation of taxpayer resources, on-going promotion of unfair privatization special interests, and blatant disregard of the public trust.

Op-ed submit bugLess than two days after Gov. Dannel Malloy’s re-election, you announce the SBOE’s willingness to continue supporting the questionable policies of the departing Commissioner of Education.  It does not take a rocket scientist to connect the dots between Stefan Pryor and further privatization, especially as active investigations are undertaken into the many controversies associated with charter schools both in our state and across this country.

The mere appearance of collusion with the departing commissioner is downright irresponsible.  The lack of oversight and regulation of for-profit programs in the Commissioner’s Network – – those private charter school companies, more than enough already in our state — makes it difficult to understand your continued support for diverting millions of precious financial resources, while underfunding other public schools in the same communities.

It is not your responsibility to pick winners and losers in the education sweepstakes by squandering scarce public funds on highly controversial and unproven charter schools.  It is, however, your responsibility to look out for the best interests of all students in public schools throughout our state.

You should be calling for a comprehensive investigation into the improprieties that have been alleged in the non-transparent environment of corporate education reform that will inform you of the truth underlying the Jumoke scandal and assure the people of this state that corrective oversight and regulations are in place to prevent further mismanagement of public funds in private enterprises.

,There is certainly enough evidence of problems associated with charter school operations across our country that should make you think very carefully before recommending that more precious resources be allocated to further risky and unproven privatization endeavor

In the past year, I have written to you in your positions as SBOE members, sharing concerns and sending links to various articles and research in hopes that you would “get beyond the vested interests of those who seek to profit and begin to make a difference where it really counts in the classroom,” yet I remain dismayed by your unwillingness to take in and consider any such evidence.

There is no doubt that the education reform movement is well-entrenched and well-funded and, even though the Common Core standards have never been piloted or field tested, those who back them — our governor and Education Commissioner — have similarly shown no willingness to review the underlying validity of the proposed standards and all that their implementation sets in motion.

It rests, then, with you as public stewards designated to protect the best interests of all students in our public schools to call for meaningful, thorough, and independent investigation into the Common Core, its expensive testing requirements, its massive data storage expectations, and its degrading teacher evaluative practices.

John Bestor lives in Newtown

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