Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Austin School District Leaders Blundering through the Charter question

Austin Independent School District (AISD) is making a mess.

The school board is deciding whether to have IDEA charter take over much of the east side schooling in Austin. At their Monday 12/12/11 Board meeting, IDEA charter school friends & staff (many from out-of-town) took up seats INSIDE the already small AISD board auditorium, while directly affected parents, students and small kids from the east side were forced to stand for several hours OUTSIDE the auditorium. Meanwhile the board hemmed and hawed until 1am before punting the thing over to next week. The display was pathetic on many levels. It also told me much of what I needed to know in order to decide where to stand on this one.

There were many problematic aspects of the proposal. Here are just two: 1) the proposal on the table requires IDEA to perform at the same level or better than the current schools they would replace. If they are only required to meet the current level of mediocrity then what is the point of turning over the keys to an outside entity?; 2) The community - and by community I mean those families directly affected - is overwhelmingly against this, making the situation colonial, hell perhaps even mercantilist, in nature. An outside governing entity contracting to another entity to run the ship for $$ over the objections of the locals. Seems so much the last 500 years of global history.

Capping the whole thing was a tragic lack of Board leadership. At-large Trustee Barksdale was the lone voice grasping the big picture and asking important questions about a matter (granting the district's 1st in-district charter) that has gigantic implications for the future of AISD and the future of Austin. Trustee Moya on the other hand, did little more that grandstand as she emotively offered her logic for favoring the charter. She declared that things are bad so we have to do ... something. That's it? Yikes. Likewise, Trustee Guzman offered that, charters are coming one way or another, so we might as well get on board. Yikes again. There might be good reasons for granting charters. Those were not. Meanwhile, other Board members are backpedaling into this thing. They are refusing to act affirmatively, but rather allowing the decision to wash over them, which only means that a lot of angry parents are going to be out again next week, only to be ignored again, and only to become more angry. ... What a mess.

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