We’ve been told repeatedly that no final decision has been made on converting the remaining Longview ISD campuses into charter schools. By all technical measures, that’s correct.
By any practical view, however, the district is moving toward a full district of charter schools with the same certainty a freight train barrels down the track between here and Dallas. There’s little to no chance there will be a change of direction.
The decision last year to convert six campuses to charter schools happened with no real public input, though the district did convene meetings for the public after the fact this fall. We saw no huge groundswell of support for the idea at those meeting, but neither was there marked opposition.
Mostly, it seemed, parents and other district patrons don’t know what to think. There’s not much, if any, empirical data that shows why the charter schools should do a better job of educating our young people.
One fact that is for certain is that the Legislature is willing to give more money to districts that try the charter school experiment. This, officials tell us, is supposed to be the reason we should embrace it.
The irony here is thick. We’ve heard for years how public education cannot be fixed by “throwing money at the problem.” Legislators used that lame excuse to deprive schools of needed funding. Now, they are throwing money at charter schools, saying the new system will make flowers bloom in January. And suddenly we’re expected to believe it.
One group we have not heard from in the rush to the charter system are those who operate on the front lines — the classroom teachers. So far as we know, they have not been asked to weigh in on whether they think converting the district to charter schools will solve, or worsen, educational shortfalls.
We don’t know what teachers might say but we know their opinions would be valuable to consider.
One problem with this is that many teachers — and principals — could be reluctant to speak out against a program they know their supervisors are pushing. That could be a career-limiting move.
We don’t know how we could arrive at knowing how teachers feel without placing them in jeopardy. But make no mistake, teachers have the most reliable information on what works in the classroom, how to motivate students and what will lead to successful outcomes.
It’s entirely possible that teachers overwhelmingly support the move. The problem is we don’t know. And we aren’t sure those at the top care.
There’s no reason to rush the charter process but that hasn’t stopped the rush so far. How about we slow down a bit and ask the teachers? We value what they have to say.