This is Rick Bagley’s letter to the editor in response to an article published in Capital & Main, a publication that poses as a non-profit independent news organization, but is essentially a front for organized labor – including the teachers unions – and as such, work to further the unions’ agenda. We have no problem with unions or unionization, but we prefer transparency and openness to deception. Although legitimate news organizations would take pains to acknowledge these potential conflicts-of-interest, you won’t find disclosures about Capital & Main’s ties to organized labor appended to their reports on education or other relevant topics. -ed
R. Bagley’s comment re: Capital & Main article about Ross Valley Charter
This article’s headline might leave readers with the mistaken impression this is a “first world problem,” isolated to a tiny high-performing school district in an affluent Northern California county, known more for its mountain biking than being in the midst of a national issue many believe to be an effort aimed at destroying public education.
Make no mistake, the story told here is not about petty grievances between neighbors, giving each other the stink eye as they navigate their shopping carts down the cereal aisle at the local Safeway. Neither is this a story about “Go Public, Not Charter” schwag or the hundreds-strong and highly organized local advocacy group known as “STAND.” Frankly, I don’t even see this as an article about charter schools themselves or the Trump/DeVoss faux-erudite campaign to superimpose onto public education, the same miserable failure that has befallen the privatization of our prison system.
In my view, this article is wholly summed-up by the quote from Ms. Trish Williams, member of the California State Board of Education, who stated, “Even within a totally fabulous school district there can be a case where parents feel like they want a different kind of instructional methodology and environment for their children. … And that is also a legitimate reason for why charter schools get started.”
With the mountain of empirical research on what works in the classroom, as well as our collective practical experience and real-world wisdom about impactful teaching and learning, how did we arrive a place where elected and appointed state officials from the Governor on down, wholly undermine and abandon our truly public schools in favor of creating “different environments” based on what some people “feel?”
And that, for me at least, is the crux of this issue and the real point of this article. Our state-elected and appointed officials are more than willing to discuss legislating children’s access to sugary soft drinks, yet they recklessly approve 3 out of 4 charter petitions that were previously denied for legitimately sound reasons at both the local and county levels … all because someone “feels” this is the best course for public education.
I’ve got no particular beef with the concept of charter schools and though I agree with many others that the phrase “school of choice” is a modern age synonym for “segregation,” parents have the right to “feel” they need to pursue a particular educational option they “feel” is best for their children. As parents, I’m sure some of us “feel” our kids shouldn’t be immunized or forced to wear restrictive helmets when they ride their bikes. I’m also sure some of us “feel” our kids learn best when they decide what they should be taught or that multi-age classroom structures have far more positive effect than the virtually zero impact found in the research. In short, we parents “feel” a lot of things.
But since when do our state-elected and appointed officials, who constantly spout the merits of local control, data-driven decision-making and accountability, allow the wholesale carving-up of a “totally fabulous school district” in favor of creating a placebo-program based on how some people “feel?” Since when does a state that, for decades has claimed we should be consolidating the obvious redundancies and scale of a thousand different school districts, justify doubling this redundancy by allowing the creation of as many charters? Since when does a state, whose per-pupil spending on public education is among the very lowest in our nation, rationalize dividing that meager revenue pie even further as a “legitimate reason for why charter schools get started?”
From the looks of it, and the data seems to clearly bear this out, our elected and appointed state officials are systematically dismantling California’s public education system. Our State Board of Education have more than proven themselves to be worthy to the task, as evidenced by their track record for basing critical educational decisions on peoples’ “feelings” rather than following the charter approval process they themselves helped create. The state-sponsored deconstruction of a “totally fabulous school district” makes no sense in Marin County or any county. It makes even less sense to, 75% of the time, over-rule the state’s own process-driven local and county decision making, in order to placate either our Governor’s viewpoint or a group of parents’ “feelings” about wanting taxpayers to fund their “different kind of instructional methodology and environment.”
Perhaps it’s time we all crack open our favorite sugary soft drink and have a toast to the memory of the totally fabulous and truly public school districts for which our great state was once known.