Editorial: The objective is innovation

2012-11-05T08:00:00Z Editorial: The objective is innovation Albany Democrat Herald
November 05, 2012 8:00 am

Charter schools continue to dominate mid-valley headlines, what with last week’s public hearing before the Albany School Board over a proposed new charter school and, over in Benton County, the welcome news that the Kings Valley Charter School and the Philomath School District had settled their legal wrangling.

In an editorial last week, we pondered the inevitable tensions between charter schools and their sponsoring districts — tensions that reached an unusual peak in the Kings Valley-Philomath flap but cooled, as we had hoped, once the two sides sat down to talk.

But there’s one point that we didn’t get to in last week’s editorial, and it’s worth making: If one of the ideas behind these charter schools is to use them as laboratories for educational innovation, one sure way to snuff out that innovation is to insist that a charter school looks just like any other public school.

In that light, it was odd to read about some of the questions that Albany School Board members were firing at the organizers of the proposed Albany Community Charter School.

How would you handle gym space? What about your kitchen facilities? Your science labs? Do you have enough money set aside for computer labs and equipment? How will you deal with unexpected bumps in costs?

Now, granted, the sponsoring school district — and, by extension, its trustees — certainly needs to be sure that it maintains a proper measure of oversight over a charter school. (In fact, this was one of the core issues in the Philomath-Kings Valley dispute.)

However, the unspoken subtext — intentional or not — of many of these questions at last week’s public hearing was this: “How are you going to provide the same services that we do? You have to be different, but you should look just like we do.”

Charter schools need the freedom to be different. If a school district keeps a charter school on too tight of a leash, it runs the risk of choking out any possibility of innovation. And that flies in the face of Oregon’s grand experiment with charter schools. (mm)

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. Jennifercummins
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    Jennifercummins - November 05, 2012 1:30 pm
    This is not a large corporation trying to open a school. It's a group of local parents who want a different choice for education in Albany. Our plan does not call for hiring unqualified teachers. We will hire licensed, highly qualified classroom teachers. Charter schools are open to everyone. They do not discriminate.
  2. PereUbu
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    PereUbu - November 05, 2012 1:07 pm
    Be careful with corporatized charter schools. They are failing miserably on the east coast.

    Charter schools are being set up to transition away from publicly funded education to privatized education. IF you think college is expensive....... IF you think everyone is going to have access to the same education......... These charter schools are hiring poorly trained teachers at $10 an hour. What you will get is not much more than a babysitter.....but the way I hear some people talk about education, that would be perfectly fine for them.

    Just a matter of time people. Be careful what you wish for.
  3. Libertarian
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    Libertarian - November 05, 2012 11:59 am
    Why is this even an issue? Why don’t we have a voucher system where parents decide which schools are good? In that system, no centralized bureaucracy can stand in the way of innovation and excellence in education. Sweden, that seeming bastion of big government, has figured this out. Why can’t we?
  4. Jennifercummins
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    Jennifercummins - November 05, 2012 11:20 am
    The reason that those things were not in the budget, has to do with our choice for a facility. We have made it clear from the beginning that Fir Grove was our first choice for a building. It has a gym and most of the things we will need. The school district refuses to answer the question of whether or not they will lease the building to us. We already have donations of 25 computers and other equipment. We hope to have more technology than what is called for in the budget, but it's not the top priority. We currently have budgeted 13,000 for computers and computer infrastructure. The top priority is providing a solid well balanced education in small class sizes. That is our focus.

    Jennifer Cummins
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