A better way

All too often, solutions proposed to fix the education system involve throwing money at the situation. We already spend far more on our students than any other country in the world. Money isn’t the issue.

What is needed is a change of culture that fosters hard work and innovation.

The problem is that the trend in this country seems to be toward the government putting a stranglehold on educators, increasingly regulating how and what they teach. These regulations don't allow educators the opportunity to explore new and better ways to help children learn. It also systematically discourages the individualization, ignoring the fact that every student is motivated by different things and learns in different ways.

Charter schools are an enormous step in the right direction.

Yes, there are charter schools that fail to deliver. There are also charters that have produced stunning results, making resounding successes of students from the poorest neighborhoods in the country.

Then there are charters that may not give a student better test scores, but their approach to education will spawn interest in future intellectual pursuits of students who may not be inspired by traditional schooling.

The nature of this country isn’t to be safe and satisfied with the middle, but to strive to find new, different and better ways to do things. That is exactly what charter schools are for, and even though the road to innovation is often a bumpy one, it is always a worthy one.

Shane Morin, Lewiston

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 's picture

One thing about writing

One thing about writing letters to the editor is that you have a limited amount of space to say what you want.. I had a lot that I wanted to say that unfortunately I didn't have enough room to say it in.

Dan - First, one thing I am certainly not is part of the "wacko right". I'm pretty moderate and vote democrat at least 60% of the time. I do believe, however, that the regulations the national government has been putting on our schools (most of these coming from No Child Left Behind and the Bush administration, actually) are keeping schools from exploring new ways to educate our children. Part of the culture problem in our schools right now is that they're structured a certain way that isn't all that demanding. You'd think that would be the first thing to change - to go in a direction that would demand more hard work from our students. Unfortunately, because that requires such a dramatic culture shift, the regulated schools can't make those changes very easily. That's where charter schools come in - without having to worried about being structured a certain way, they can explore different and better ways. It certainly is to lump all charter schools into one category because many of them are so different. Take a look at the Coalition of Essential Schools - I used to see Lewiston High School on that list (it was even on that list when I went to school there), but (and this is only from an outsider looking in, I don't know exactly the reason) the school seemed to have a hard time making the changes necessary to really embrace that philosophy.

Second, Dan, the point is giving the opportunity to students whose families CAN'T afford to send them to private schools to have the chance to send their kids to a great school outside the realm of a typical education. Like I said, though, I am not part of the "wacko right" and believe government should be paying for these schools. We can't afford to pay more right now, that's why it's simply relocating funds rather than being new ones in. Smaller schools tend to do better anyway, which is why a lot of the largest ones, often middle and high schools, will separate their students into "teams" - those smaller learning communities help.

Jason - The lottery system really is an unfortunate consequence of the charter school system, that is for sure. And yes, you bring up some other unfortunate elements of the charter school system. "Bad eggs" aren't necessarily filtered as much as you seem to think they are, but otherwise I do see those as necessary evils.

 's picture

Thanks, Shane, ...

... for an excellent letter, and an even better response. Ignore Breton. His hang-up du-jour is the "wacko right". You're guilty until you prove yourself innocent, which you have done admirably.

I don't believe that charter schools are the answer. Nor do I believe that throwing ever higher budgets at non-charter schools will solve anything - except union demands. What has a slight chance of providing change we can believe in is a venue for talking about changes to the status quo without drawing an automatic slam from the "wacko left". Have you attended a school board meeting recently and tried to even discuss an issue, let alone criticize the status quo? If you did, I hope you wore your kevlar leisure suit.

Jason Theriault's picture

A few problems

There are many problems with Charter schools.

My first problem is that your shifting resources away from the public sector unless you plan on raising the budget. So while more funding might not fix public school, I HIGHLY doubt that less funding will.

Secondly, even with a lottery system, it won’t be easy to get a kid into the Charter system. It will require parents to do a lot of leg work usually, and the parents willing to tooth and claw to get their kids in and most likely involved in their kid’s education/lives already. This means your already going to filter out the bad eggs that drive stats down.

I’m not saying I’m against it, but I would like to see a pilot program first. Start small, and see how it goes.


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