Re: Three Threads in a Fountain

Jim Rietmulder (jim.rietmulder@mindspring.com)
Fri, 31 Jan 1997 16:23:47 -0800

At 15:05 1/31/97 Don Yates wrote:
>It is quite dangerous to make blanket statements about Charter School laws.
>They vary all over the lot depending on the state.

My "blanket" covers only Pennsylvania, as I said. Within that scope I think
my statements are well founded. Charter legislation has come up in
Pennsylvania a few times, always hobbled by fatal restrictions, and never
adopted anyway. Furthermore, there's no audible support for innovation. If
the "danger" you refer to is the danger of closing the door too soon,
because a useful proposal *could* come along, then okay, I'm duly reminded
to be ever hopeful.

I'm aware that other states, in almost all regulatory matters, are far less
retrictive than Pennsylvania.

I agree with your general conclusion that prevailing attitudes must change
before there will be much progress in schools. I'd like to think that SVS
and the rest of us school-alikes are stimulating a shifting of attitudes,
one family at a time.

Jim Rietmulder

At 15:05 1/31/97 -0500, you wrote:
>I guess it is time to jump into this line of conversation which I have been
>watching with great interest. I would like to throw in some more information
>on Charter schools. I was heavily involved in designing and opening Charter
>School #1 in California which was the second or third state (I believe) to
>have a charter law.
>
>It is quite dangerous to make blanket statements about Charter School laws.
>They vary all over the lot depending on the state. California probably has
>the most open law of any of them. It is absolutely possible, and I have tried
>to find someone willing to do it, to open a SVS school in California under
>the current law. It requires those opening the school to submit a thirteen
>point charter to the local board. The first of these requires a definition of
>the philosophy of the school including what it means to be educated in the
>21st century. The second requires a definition of the outcomes from the
>school. The third asks how these are to be measured. One other requires a
>definition of how the school is to be governed. In none of these is there any
>requirement having to do with what they say. It is totally up to a
>negotiation between the charterers and the board - and there are boards, I
>believe, that would charter such a school If your board approves and a
>certain percentage of teachers in the district approve having a charter - not
>this particular charter (and it is written to make it easy to get this
>percentage) the school is in business. The State cannot reverse the decision,
>they only assign the number to the school. Once they have this, the school is
>exempt from ALL requirements of school districts. That means curriculum,
>bargaining, even earthquake safety requirements.
>
>The only hitch SVS wise is that the law originally said students had to pass
>the CLASS tests - tests given at the end of three grades that are meant to
>measure the school not the students. At the moment this is moot as the
>governor did not fund this so there is no testing.
>
>
>I lay this out to show that the idea of charters is basically sound in that
>it allows anyone to try out something new. The bad news is that most of the
>charter laws are not, as some of you have pointed out, as free as this.
>Furthermore, the folks doing the charters are not, in general, even coming
>close to using the freedom even the most stringent ones allow to try out new
>things. I had great hopes for the charter movement in the beginning, but have
>pretty much given up on it because they are still living in the old paradigm.
>The point is, though, that the issue of changing towards SVS type learning
>communities is not in the laws but in the thinking of those writing and
>living out those laws. At least in California the door is open. Unfortunately
>no one is going through it.
>
>Don Yates
>dbyates@aol.com
>