Throughout Gov. Matt Bevin’s election campaign, he continually asserted his support for the charter school movement as a way to replace failing schools in Fayette and Jefferson counties.
On a radio show in November, Bevin promoted his platform for charter schools by stating, “Let’s start with public charter schools, put them in those communities where young people are being destined for failure by having to go to these failing schools.”
Bevin also stated that the fault did not lie with the teachers but with a system that restricts teachers from innovative teaching.
If the educational misfortunes of students in the failing schools do not lie with teachers and administrators, who is at fault?
Given that Kentucky’s new governor has no educational teaching background, Kentucky legislators and educators should question his stance on the charter school movement.
In my own experience teaching in the charter schools of inner-city New Orleans, I have found that failing schools encounter similar problems whether they are chartered or publicly run.
Failing schools have high teacher turnover rates because they often lack behavioral systems needed to ensure that teachers can do their jobs. Failing schools also encounter budget issues, which results in cutbacks and teachers buying their own supplies without hope of reimbursement.
Lastly, failing schools have to be filled with the best teachers who are willing to work overtime to ensure their students learn the appropriate skills to be successful in the next grade.
More often than not, teachers in failing schools are not willing to work overtime, not because they do not care for students, but because they do not feel that their pay reflects their hard work or because they do not feel fully supported behaviorally by their administration.
Instead of turning to the charter school movement, Bevin should turn to state educators to assess why each school is failing. Schools should receive an internal review as to how and why their schools are failing. Behavioral systems and educational practices should be questioned and revised to secure the success of students in failing schools. Teacher recruitment in failing schools should also be considered to ensure that students below grade level are receiving the best instruction with teachers willing to work overtime to make those academic gains.
Bevin should also recognize that educational issues cannot be solely resolved by a change in the type of schooling that students receive. Communities in failing school districts are plagued with poverty, healthcare issues, teenage pregnancy and a lack of parental support. All of these problems affect a student’s ability to perform in the classroom, and are social issues, not educational issues.
Schools in poor neighborhoods must be filled with teachers who hold high expectations, but also empathize with and understand the issues that affect low-income students. This can be achieved within the public school system without deferring to charter schools.
Kentucky educators must work on establishing high behavioral and academic standards for all students. If those standards are set, students will meet them.
In turn, Bevin should turn his legislation toward the financial and social improvement of the low-income communities. If he decides to invest in the improvement of the low-income communities and allows state educators to improve the public schools, charter schools will be unnecessary.
Annalee Abell of Lexington teaches math in a New Orleans inner-city charter school.
At issue: Nov. 5 Herald-Leader article, “Bevin singles out Fayette, Jefferson for ‘failing schools,’ repeats pitch for charter schools”