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February 24, 2012

BOE Candidates Position on Charter Schools (conít)

Amanda Haddaway

Today we continue with the responses of candidates for the Frederick County Board of Education in this year’s election to a basic question. Yesterday we posted the responses of three of them.


The question dealt with the candidates’ position on charter schools.


Emily Ann Meyer: “I am a charter school agnostic. There have been some absolute stand-out charter schools (such as those shown in movies like The Cartel and Waiting for Superman). There have also been some less-than-stellar charter schools. While charter schools in Washington, D.C., are outpacing their public counterparts, in New York City (which has a very liberal charter law), there have been no appreciable academic gains. Similarly, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17% of charter schools (and it analyzed 70% of the schools existing at the time) performed better than public school averages, while 46% showed no difference and a full 37% were significantly worse.


“Because – unlike D.C. or New York City – Frederick County Public Schools are already performing so very well (substantially higher AP scores than either the national or state average), I am somewhat skeptical about the role that charters would play. (Indeed, even financially the school system’s central office costs per-student are lower than anywhere else in the state; or, if we’re to use the “corruption” metric from The Cartel, I counted no luxury automobiles in the central office parking lot the last time I was there.)


“That, said, I am also not opposed to the idea, and if a charter has a unique curriculum or pedagogical approach that is no less stringent or rigorous than that which is already in place in FCPS and the budgetary considerations would not disadvantage the already-existing public schools, I would give it due and open-minded consideration.”


Cindy Rose: “As a recent convert to pro-charter schools, I am for them. I used to believe they took money from our schools, but that is not the case; our schools actually make money on them. For starters, of the roughly $12,000 in MOE (Maintenance of Effort) the charter only gets about $9,000, the school keeps the remainder even though that child is no longer in a public school building.


“Parents have a right to the education they want for their children. Often this is not what you get in a public education. With the state and federal government mandating so much of our curriculum, parents feel less and less involved in this process. Charter schools give some of this control back to parents. The fight shouldn't be with charter parents for wanting out; the fight should be with the state and federal governments who keep meddling in our children's education. If more effort was put to that we might actually get somewhere in education reform. Power to the parents!”


Joy Schaefer: “Charter schools can play an important role in education and can benefit the children who attend the specific school, as well as all the children served by the school system.


“First, charters can provide models of instruction and governance that differ greatly from the existing schools of the school system. There are models around the U.S. that exemplify how charters can provide excellent alternative educations to students and offer innovative ideas that can be utilized by the school system to enhance its own delivery of education to the larger population of students.


“Second, charters can provide success to failing schools, which seems to be the model that is familiar to most people. In Frederick County, our schools are not failing, so the model we would benefit from would be the first. And I would support those charter schools that, in their application, and in addition to adhering to any federal/state/local mandates, can provide the following:





“I will add that our budgets are tight and I would have to weigh the costs of opening any new charter schools, against the costs of meeting the system’s existing needs, as I would do for any new initiative or program.”


Tom Shade: I am open to charter schools as long as they follow the policy of providing an alternative means within the existing public school system to offer innovative learning opportunities and creative educational approaches in order to improve the education of students. I think it's great that they can offer, and provide, alternative choices to families within the public school system. If they can accept the Board of Education as their chartering authority, I think it would be a great partnership.”


Pam Ward: “I am a supporter of School Choice and that includes Charter Schools. Students need options in the way that they are taught and charter schools offer different classroom environments than the traditional school setting (ex: Montessori Methods, Classical Curriculum, Language-Immersion). Charter schools are open to all students within the county (although there may be a lottery in place if too many students apply). The charter schools offer other forms of school choice for students to have their academic needs and learning preferences met.


Responses from the other five candidates – Zakir Bengali, Donna J. Crook, Kiesha La Kay Edmonds, and Kathryn B. Groth – were not received.


[Editor’s Note: Ms. Groth, an incumbent member of the Frederick County Board of Education may not have responded to this question because there was a critical issue dealing with charter schools on the school board meeting agenda scheduled for Wednesday February 22, 2012. She was in Indonesia and participated in the school board meeting by telephone.]


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