Education plan creates more concerns, rather than resolving problems
The plan to allow for-profit charter companies to seize control of traditional public schools is raising concerns among education advocates. It's especially concerning as it continues the trend of siphoning money away from traditional public schools to unaccountable for-profit charters and private schools.
In its details, the Pearsall Plan was unique to its time and place. Crafted 60 years ago, it reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling by authorizing the use of tax dollars to pay for private education if necessary to avoid integration. It also allowed local school boards to close schools “where conditions became intolerable.”
A plan to create “Achievement School Districts” now working its way through the legislature includes a component for closing low-performing schools deemed intolerable in their own way. Meanwhile, funding for “Opportunity Scholarships” — tuition grants for private education — is greatly accelerating.
This program isn’t designed to skirt desegregation, of course. Students of all races participate, as long as they meet eligibility guidelines: income below about $45,000 for a family of four, although that too will be raised.
But most of the recipient schools do segregate in a way — by religious belief. Parents may want their children to attend school in a strong academic environment, but many also desire instruction in certain religious beliefs and traditions.
The state last year began a multimillion-dollar pilot project, paying out-of-state, for-profit companies to enroll thousands of students in online courses. High initial dropouts were reported, but legislators don’t seem concerned.
It seems as if any idea is fine if it gets more students out of traditional public schools. Yes, many of those schools struggle with low-achieving students. But school leaders know how to fix them — with smaller classes, more reading specialists, social workers, after-school programs, summer programs and other strategies that cost money. Yet, the state keeps shifting resources to various alternatives.