February 12, 2010

Good for Students Versus Good for the Public Education Industry

Justin Katz

Tom Ward writes on the success of Democracy Prep Blackstone Valley charter school in Cumberland, noting:

"My concern, as the [Lincoln] superintendent (Georgia Fortunato), is that if they move into Fairlawn, Democracy Prep, people are going to think they are part of the Lincoln School Department and I think we are going to lose a lot more children," said Fortunato. "It could be very devastating for the school district."

Devastating - as in "We lose $8,000 per child" - for the school district. And perhaps the best single thing that will ever happen to the children. How did we get to this place, where what's best for the school district and what's best for the child are two very different things?

Mike, at Assigned Reading, follows up:

Fortunato's complaint that Democracy Prep hurts Lincoln's bottom line will fall on deaf ears; parents won't consider the financial impact when they decide who can provide the best education for their children. It also doesn't help that, last week, Fortunato was arguing for $31,000 in next year's budget to paint and recarpet the administration building. Considering there are no children in this building, is this the best way to spend education funds in these tough economic times? Really.

For those of us with young children, the Rhode Island Way of doing public education is a matter of urgency. That's part of the reason that I found Dan Yorke's interview with Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, focusing on Central Falls, so encouraging. I did, however, have to remind myself that, even if Gist is so successful as to justify many times her salary, the forces that have brought Rhode Island to its current low will not go away. And as quickly as she may advance the state's education system, relatively small changes in the political winds could turn around the turnaround using the interventionist precedents that she's setting.