The 3 Education Questions We Should Ask All Candidates for Public Office

There are 3 education questions that, when answered or dodged, tell all about a politician’s stance on public education:

Should all charter schools receiving any kind of tax money have identical testing requirements for their students as traditional public school students?

Should all charter schools receiving any tax money get identical types of public report cards on their students’ performance as are given to traditional public schools?

Should all charter schools receiving any tax money have the same accounting oversight requirements as traditional public schools?

Granted, these might sound a bit technical, but remember that many of our candidates for public office are lawyers and know quite well how to skirt more general questions.

Beware of the Man Behind the Curtain

How the candidates answer these questions will tell us aMan behind the curtain - Wizard of OZll about who is influencing their thinking. The questions can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. These questions will serve the same role as Toto who pulled back the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.

If they try to dodge or reinterpret the questions, then they are, in truth, being influenced by pro-corporate charter school investors and their front groups.

There are all kinds of reform-sounding phrases that candidates use to say no to any combination of these questions like “making room for disruptive change”, “freedom to innovate”, “freedom to find better solutions”, etc. But traditional public schools can and do engage in the same kinds of innovations while being fully accountable to the public.

Accountability is the Key

The key issue is accountability.  The public who have tax money extracted from them to pay for education, and who are the ultimate stakeholders in the outcome of public education, deserve this power of oversight no matter which type of school is receiving the tax money.

It should be this simple: If any school receives tax money, it is fully accountable for following the rules, whether it be financial (audits) or academic (testing).

But charter school corporations do not want it to be this simple. They want the state to make you pay tax money that goes to them, and then is not accounted for in any way. What a sweet deal! What corporation wouldn’t want that?

The taxpayer should not stand for it.

In earlier posts I have pointed out this very discrepancy with recent charter school proposals here in Oklahoma. The proposals here are nearly identical to other states because the corporate interests pushing them want national uniformity that will allow for industrial economies of scale.

Persistent Wrongdoing Requires Persistent Oversight

In the post, Bill Allowing Charter School Debt Threatens School Funds in Oklahoma, I showed how the most recent charter school proposals not only exempt charters from having their students tested with the same tests as public schools; but, also to be exempt from the same tough accounting and debt rules as public schools.

In another post, This is What Happens When Bankers Run Public Schools, I showed how in more and more states where the accounting and public disclosure laws are not as strict for charters, it is a disaster for the children who have to see their school closed, sometimes right at the end of the school year.

It may just be that if charters are subjected to the same accounting and testing measures as traditional public schools, we will see that they are no better, and in some cases worse, than their traditional counterparts in all aspects. Education corporations won’t want you know that.

The bottom line: If a school is receiving tax money, it is a public school. If it is a public school, it should have identical accounting and testing measures applied.