You might not have heard about Kevin Stitt.
He’s not infamous like Ralph Northam of Virginia, who donned blackface to draw attention to himself while in college, and he’s certainly no Andrew Cuomo, a native New Yorker who talks loud and carries a big stick. They’re so old school. But on Monday, Mr. Stitt, used his platform as governor of Oklahoma to explain why children and families who utilize choice and charter schools deserve funding just like children and families in traditional public schools.
“This [school board] decision is the right one for Oklahoma students,” he said. “The COVID pandemic has shown us that students learn in a variety of different ways and there is no one-size-fits-all school for every student. Public school students should not be punished for succeeding in a charter school setting. Further, existing statute makes clear that charter schools are eligible for local revenues.”
He continued: “The State Board’s decision is a lawful solution to a problem that has existed for years and predates my time as governor. But let me be clear: I was hired to bring a fresh set of eyes to all areas of government, including, and perhaps most importantly, the way we educate future generations. Oklahoma’s 40+ year stagnant approach is not working. Being ranked among the bottom five states in the nation for education is unacceptable to me and I know it’s unacceptable to Oklahomans, so I will do everything I can to ensure Oklahoma becomes a Top Ten state in education and that includes supporting all public school students in the same way.”
Mr. Stitt’s vision and commitment are not merely honorable but breathtaking. They come as more than a dozen parents in Montclair, New Jersey, have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Montclair Public Schools, the Board of Education and the Montclair superintendent.
“With their arbitrary rules that fly in the face of the recommendations of experts …, the children of the District have been deprived of their right to an education,” the parents say in their lawsuit, which is reported in Tuesday’s edition by colleague Alexandria Swoyer. “Sadly, there has been no one to speak for our children over the last 12 months as they silently suffered with remote learning.”
In another New Jersey lawsuit, families in South Orange-Maplewood School District are suing to get their elementary through high school back in classrooms. Students in third, fifth, seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade have not had in-person learning since March 13, 2020. One Montclair parent, Steven Baffico, said frustrated parents also are considering suing the Montclair Education Association, the teachers union.
Don’t be surprised if they do. Unions have been balking about school reopenings since governors and mayors closed schools.
Chicago faculty are employing another delay tactic. The Chicago Teachers Union boasted this week that faculty at two charter schools are considering joining the union. No surprise there. Once a union supporter, always a union supporter.
One of the things that most frustrated Montclair families was the delays and setbacks in reopening schools.
The stimulus bills provided money for union workers, public schools and some maintenance work, so there’s no reason public charter school children should be excluded. Indeed, some charter schools in D.C. reopened months ago — unlike traditional schools.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a tough lesson for parents, teachers and politicians. The old-school one-size-fits-all way of education does not work. Charter school advocates have been saying as much all along.
Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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