On September 15, 2008, Helen Cochran of Citizens for Better Education gave a talk before a Wichita civic group. Her talk was fabulous. Here are some highlights:
Helen (like myself) has tried to get test scores from USD 259 (Wichita public school district), but it’s a difficult process. There’s always a delay or reason why figures aren’t available. But, as Helen noted in her talk, school board president Lynn Rogers and Wichita Eagle columnist Mark McCormick seem to have access to the data. Openness and transparency, as I noted in posts like Wichita Public Schools: Open Records Requests Are a Burden isn’t a competency at USD 259.
Helen mentioned what USD 259 doesn’t: new facilities will incur increased maintenance costs. It’s really worse than that, as new facilities need to be heated, cooled, and lighted. New classrooms, built to support class size reduction, need new teachers and perhaps more staff and bureaucracy.
Here’s something important in Helen’s talk:
The defeat of this school bond could be a beneficial springboard to realizing that business as usual is not succeeding in preparing our kids for the future and we must look to the numerous failures and successes in other communities if we are truly committed to giving our children the necessary tools to compete in a global economy.
Vouchers, school choice, charter schools, home schools are not dirty words. The Wichita Eagle editorial board recently dismissed a group of bond opponents as “you people just want vouchers” as if that was all the more reason not to take opponents seriously in their concerns. These alternatives strike fear into the hearts of educational bureaucrats and teacher unions. Well you know what? It is not about them. It is about the children.
Why is the existing education establishment and the Wichita Eagle editorial board afraid of school choice in Kansas? Their standard response is that school choice programs drain money from public schools. But this fear is unfounded. Recently the The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released the study School Choice by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006. Their finding? “Every existing school choice program is at least fiscally neutral, and most produce a substantial savings.”
It’s possible — perhaps likely — that members of the public education establishment like Wichita school board president Lynn Rogers and the other board members don’t know this. Perhaps Wichita Eagle columnists like Mark McCormick and Rhonda Holman dismiss school choice without knowing facts like this. If so, here’s a chance to become informed.
Near the closing of her talk, Helen said this:
This proposed bond, like many bonds across this country, is a referendum on an administrative bureaucracy that equates progress to shiny and new. And however well intended, we have a school board that follows, rather than leads. The mantra would appear to be go along to get along.
I have a friend that teaches in Northwest Arkansas and he said they spend around $6000 per student. They have a good school system and are in the process of building a gym so nice it will be the best in any high school in Arkansas. Now, I know that isn’t apples to apples with Wichita, but we really need twice as much money to get worse results? Just thought you might be interested.