Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Is Means

When politics crashed head on into facts during the Clinton administration the American public was challenged to parse statements ultimately devolving into a serious discussion of the meaning of the word "is".

But we've grown quite a bit since then. Now we no longer confront these kinds of issues head on preferring to accept political deceptions and deflections until confrontation is absolutely unavoidable. This is no more true in public education than in any other political arena. The upcoming challenge in language parsing is being brought to you by the stampede towards "Charter Clusters" in DeKalb and the language being redefined is "Local Control".

Now "Local Control" is near and dear to the hearts of all Dunwoodians as this was an important rallying cry in the citihood movement. It was also inseparable from "Taxation Without Representation" and when you ask yourself "Local Control Of What?" you inevitably arrive at one and only one answer: money. And such will be the case this time around.

For those not paying close attention the current Charter Cluster proposals distance themselves from central office policy, procedures and politics. Sounds good especially if you're of a mind to vilify DCSD central office. But in so doing the proposal also distances the Cluster from the will of the voter as the voter elects a board which hires and directs policy for a Superintendent from which these Clusters are severing all ties. Except the money.

Now when you hear "Local Control" in these Charter discussions you may be thinking this is a great thing as you'll now have a more direct say in the goings on at the public school in your neighborhood and more control over how resources are allocated and your money is spent. After all with the current system you may well find yourself in a distinct and powerless minority. Unfortunately the new system would degrade your position from "practically powerless" to "structurally removed from the equation altogether."

Perhaps a simple example would help. In a not so random selection let's look at a small but typical Dunwoody cul de sac with sixteen homes of fairly intact households representing two votes per home for a total of thirty two votes. Now due a combination of demographics and the restriction of votes to households with children who could attend the local school this is reduced to eight votes--one vote per child. This is a reduction of 75% in voting representation on that street--three quarters of the voting representation is lost simply due to the fact that the disenfranchised ONLY pay taxes. These folks still vote for school boards but let's keep in mind that the main goal of Charter Clusters is to separate themselves from district management and oversight. The money will flow in and 75% of the voters who now have some say (no matter how small) will soon have no say whatsoever.

If even minimally observant you will note that none of the Charter advocates will support the notion that those who they wish to strip of a voice should also be excused from paying. Somehow THAT is part of some lopsided social contract.

What you will hear are many justifications for this system and it will be touted as far superior as parents of school children will run the school or at least have a direct hand in running the school. Now imagine this: a principal, a counselor and a parent are having a discussion regarding that parent's child and that child's capabilities and preparedness for certain activities and materials. Your job (as a mental exercise) is to ponder the order you would rank these three individuals with regard to objectivity in this situation. Once complete you will have a better understanding of why more than one teacher has stated more learning would take place if all their students were from an orphanage.

Hopefully this helps as you ponder what Local Control means with the new Charter Clusters. The final definition is still a work in progress but one thing is certain: it will contain the word "cluster."