Thursday, March 24, 2011

Speech to WI Senate hearing

by Marjorie Passman on Thursday, March 24, 2011

Despite the accent you are about to hear, I have lived in Wisconsin for the last 40 years. For 25 years I have taught elementary, middle and high school. I am now on the Madison School Board but today I represent only myself and not my school board.

I come to you to ask you to reconsider the Charter School Bill you have before you. The key question before us is what will happen to pubic education if this bill passes as is.

Let’s look into the future – to the year 2025. On one side of the educational spectrum we will see a mass of private Charter Schools, filled with uncredentialed teachers and staff, unrestricted in curriculum and educational philosophy. Those not chosen by lottery will return to the dying embers of our public schools that have had essential funding drained from them for private Charter Schools. Add vouchers to the picture and you will actually have the poor paying for the rich to attend private school.

Those in crowded underfunded schools will not have their needs met – crime and poverty will increase and those needing the most from society will be getting the least.

In addition, Charter Schools have not, by any means, been universally successful. Charter schools were supposed to be the great panacea of education – they would produce great achievement and higher test scores. Recent studies do not find major gains for students in either voucher or Charter Schools. Some were more successful than others but by giving a school a Charter did not ensure success, by any means. In low income areas achievement results were the same as public schools.

Pennsylvania passed a charter law in l997 and in 2008 the RAND Corporation concluded that any gain for students were the same as the public school gains.. Those schools run for profit) did not perform any better than public schools. In 2009 Philadelphia concluded that privatization of schools had not worked.

But, I am not here to debunk Charter Schools. I am here to tell you what they will do to our Public Schools. I am here to ask you to save our public schools. 1) make them instrumentalities of their local school district, 2) finance them independently and not by preempting the funds for local schools, and, 3) Have them judged by the Department of Public Instruction – an agency whose very existence is about education while an independent politically appointed committee will not have the skills or knowledge to determine the validity of a charter’s application.

Our nation was the first to create and support public schools. Those leaders of Federal and State governments wanted to provide all children with universal access to free education. They wanted to guarantee equal opportunities for all children. They wanted our schools to unify (not separate) a diverse population, and they wanted public schools to improve social conditions. Our public schools have always been the great equalizer in our Society. Their doors have been open to any child no matter what their needs were. It is the mix of children that created a vibrancy and energy in education that was so crucial to first generation Americans like myself.

Thank you,
Marjorie Passman

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