Charter advocate Joe Nathan.
Joe Nathan runs the Minnesota-based charter school advocacy group Center for School Change.
The Center for School Change is funded by Annenberg, Blandin, Best Buy, Bradley, Bremer, Cargill, Carlson, Frey, Gates, General Mills, Joyce, Minneapolis, Peters, Pohlad, St. Paul, St. Paul Companies, TCF, Travelers, Rockefeller, Wallin, and Walton Foundations, the Carnegie Corporation, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Initiative Funds, and the Minnesota and U.S. Departments of Education.
When I posted Tim Furman’s report on the fight around Elgin’s charters and the Illinois Charter Commission, Nathan wrote a comment.
And so began the following exchange:
The American system of government does not give all the power to any elected body. That’s true for state legislators, Congress and school boards.
The Illinois state legislature decided to create a state wide board to review charter applications. I think that’s a good thing. Some teachers and parents for many years have been frustrated by decisions local boards make. The state-wide board gives them a neutral place to have their ideas reviewed. Doesn’t mean all charter proposals are good and should be approved. I’ve seen plenty that were flawed and encouraged decision-makers to reject them (often, they were rejected).
But school boards are not the only decision-makers on plenty of things. I think that’s fine.
You are wrong on this Joe. The Illinois Charter Commission is anti-democratic. “The American system of government does not give all the power to any elected body,” so misses the point as to be laughable. They are hardly a disinterested body existing to perform the duties of checks and balances. That is the job of the Illinois State Board of Education, which in fact, formerly did that job. Elected local school boards can be over-ruled in their rejection of specific charter applications by an appointed political body whose members are, by statute, required to be supportive of charter schools. Citizens have no recourse once a decision by the Charter Commission is made and then must fund those schools with local tax money that would have gone to traditional public schools. The Commission came within a few votes of being de-commissioned in the last legislative session. Its days are numbered.
Local school boards are not the final authority on many things. Fortunately other groups had the power to insist that, for example, young women needed to have equal opportunity, that students have freedom of speech, etc. etc. etc.
These are goofy and non-relevant examples. Congress and the courts are not “other groups.” Title IX was was an act of Congress. Freedom of speech for students was litigated in the courts. No politically appointed body with a vested interest in the outcome was involved in forcing their views on an elected local body.
A variety of progressive state legislators don’t think they are goofy examples. The charter board was created by elected representatives of the people.
I know Jeanne N and know that she does not support all charter proposals. She rightly recognizes that it takes a great deal of skill & knowledge to run a good school, whether district or charter. Being supportive of the charter concept does not mean you support each proposal presented.
This misses the point again. The Charter Commission is a privately funded advocacy group established by the legislature in a bill written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to approve charter schools after they have been turned down by local school boards. Bad public policy.
Long before ALEC was involved, a number of progressives were advocating that there be an opportunity for people proposing to create charters to go to a group other than a local board for permission to do this. Having an independent group does not mean they will approve all proposals.
There’s plenty of experience in states from California to New York to Mass showing that such independent boards turn down many proposals.
Fred, you constantly criticize school boards. You’re not alone. Legislators all over the country have heard this and like Illinois, decided to create an authorizing authority in addition to local boards.
Of course I criticize some school board decisions. I also criticize legislative decisions. But I don’t support an über legislature, funded by private corporations and the Gates foundation that have the power to overrule legislative decisions. That’s the people’s job. Those corporate folks and foundations have too much power already.
I am for more public control of public institutions. Not less.
In Chicago, the only school system in the state that does not have an elected school board, people are fighting to take that power back from Mayor 1%.
When we finally win back our right to an elected school board, do you think people will not criticize its decisions when they thing they are wrong? Should we then establish a separate body, appointed by the Mayor, that has the power to undo the decisions of the elected school board?
Legislators who establish charter commissions in other states are doing so because it is part of the ALEC agenda. It has nothing to do with “hearing” from Illinois.