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The Battle Concerning Charter Schools...

Alabama Legislature On The Road To Passing A bill Piloting Charter Schools

Among the many legislative bills which will be introduced during Alabama’s legislative 2015 session is one with strong support of progressive lawmakers. They plan to introduce the bill in the upcoming spring session of the Alabama’s State Legislature to provide a plan and process for the initial creation of a few charter schools. The bill will limit the number of charter schools to be established to fewer than a dozen during first fiscal year. Charter schools which exist throughout the country have been heralded for success. It is time Alabama stepped up the plate, using some of the key characteristics, best practices and most successful development of high performing charter schools in other states. While the list is long, our neighbor to the south, Florida, has already successfully created a system of charter schools throughout the state while public and private schools continue to operate. In recent years, parents, educators, corporate officials and some lawmakers have made efforts to pass legislation to establish charter schools in Alabama. Political opposition, state education officials and para-education organizations have defeated these efforts opting to perpetuate far too many failing public schools. Parents have no choice but to send their children to these schools where, in many cases, the least prepared teachers work, classroom disorder exists and there is a lack of effective discipline. A disproportionate number of minority students often lag behind and cannot read on grade level during their early years. When these students reach high school ill-equipped academically they are unable to pass rigorous high stakes tests. Common sense parents across our state have learned that Common Core, approved and supported by President Obama makes uncommon sense. In November 2010 the Alabama State Board of Education approved Common Core curriculum. The fact is that Alabama’s curriculum and the aligned assessments were not locally developed but created at the national level. Alabama’s State Board of Education and State Superintendent Tommy Bice simply added the Alabama “College and Career Ready Standards” to “modify” Common Core. Many state and local education officials present Common Core as an state-developed program. In fact, it is covertly rolled into the liberal-based, federally developed Common Core curriculum fraught with a liberal perspective on American values, omissions of fundamental American heritage and the inclusion of ideologies opposed to the Judeo-Christian beliefs. While the “standards” may appear acceptable, the textbooks and nationally developed assessments reveal controversial historical and ideological information. This move to put education under the auspices of the federal government (the U.S. Constitution leaves education under state control) is significant enough nationwide that it has already become an issue in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. There is increasing parent and student dissatisfaction over textbook content and recently aligned testing. Students is such states as New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania are refusing to take the most recent liberal-biased tests.

Charter schools allow parents a greater role to choose schools which can develop and/or use reliable curriculum and testing. Michigan has more charter schools than any other state. The findings there are that charter schools offer a choice to parents, actually attracts more racially diverse students as parent of all ethnic and racial backgrounds want their children to succeed. Some charter schools in Michigan create competition and, thus, influence the public schools to raise performance. In Florida, Hillsborough County School Board Chair Candy Olson says that while public schools receive more funding, charter schools create a variety of fund-raising and other resource acquisition which usually closes the funding gap. Charter schools are typically somewhere between public and private schools in many ways. Teachers report that students and their parents whose choice it is to attend a charter school are usually more academically serious, appreciate the unique strategies of the instructional programs and are well behaved.

Strong organizational management and exceptional instructional leadership is the preeminent factor in any school achieving its academic goals for all of students. The charter school usually engenders a sense of pride in the facility, a respect for faculty and staff and a willingness to contribute in every area to make “their” school more community oriented.

The charter school bill to be introduced to Alabama’s State Legislature should be a bi-partisan effort based on improving the academic environment and to encourage school choice for parents and students who now feel trapped in a failing school. Why would any legislator oppose a bill which would permit the incremental creation of a few charter schools in an attempt to allow students the opportunity to perform and achieve their academic potential?

David Nichols, Ed. D. is a retired educator serving at both the K – 12 and the university levels as a teacher, school administrator, and associate dean of students, consultant, author and presenter. His publications include books, journals, daily newspaper op/end pieces, etc. Dr. Nichols also had a twenty-year career in law enforcement as a police officer, chief of police and public safety director. He served as an expert witness, consultant and presenter to police departments, law enforcement academies and conferences. He is a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy.


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