Last night I reported to our network how State Rep. Tim Melton was trying to eliminate 50% of "underperforming" charter schools in Michigan. I find it interesting that he can speak on behalf of charters when we all know that he is the least literate in charter policy, let alone do not even understand why charters even exist.
"A lot of the charters are K-8 or K-5. So, they're getting the per-pupil allotment, which is the same for every age, even if they don't do the high schoolers," said Melton.
One can only point to why Melton would be after charters. He cannot point to the charters in his own district because more and more children are beginning to attend charters in Pontiac. Also, there are many high schools in Michigan that are charters.
We wanted 15 charter high schools in Detroit but Melton's friends at the Detroit Federation of Teachers fought against that. Even though it is now law I can clearly see how Melton would try to amend this law to benefit failing public schools.
Of Michigan's 229 charters, nearly 100 offer high school grades. Three of 14 state task force members who helped draft Michigan's new standards for high school graduation were from charters. The reason? Most Michigan high school graduates are not "college ready" according to performances on the ACT. Only 25 percent of test takers in the Class of 2006 scored high enough to be considered college ready, meaning they have a 75 percent chance or better of getting a "C" grade or higher in a college course.
Melton said this in a MIRS interview:
"I was surprised to find out . . . about half [of charters] are performing below the performance level of the local district and about half are performing above the level of the host district. So at some point we want to look at these bottom, or under-performing charter schools and say, "You're not doing what these guys are doing. Let's look at what the more successful ones are doing and maybe give the state superintendent the power to de-authorize."
He goes on to say,
"The entire charter school accountability issue that's been talked about for years -- we want to take a look at that, but we don't want to penalize charter schools that are doing well."
Is Melton on crack or something? This demonstrates to me he has no working knowledge of charters.
Let's look at how "accountable" charters are:
1. Charters are audited by the University, ISD, community college or public school district. If there is a flaw they can have their school shut down.
2. Charters are audited by the management company. If there is a flaw they can have their school shut down.
3. Charters are audited by the Michigan Department of Education. If there is a flaw they can have their school shut down.
4. Charters are audited by parents. If they feel that the school is going nowhere they can pull their child out of the institution. When the numbers dip below 50% the charter's state aid funding is pulled. Therefore the school can shut down.
Charter Schools are:
• Non-selective. There are no admission tests or requirements for enrollment. Charter schools are open to all students within the district in which the school is chartered, and applicants are admitted to the school on a first come, first serve basis.
• Urban. Over 80% of all charter school students live in urban areas, often in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city.
• Publicly Funded. In Chicago, charters are funded at 83% of the level of traditional schools. They receive per pupil funding comparable to other CPS schools, but must pay for their own facilities. Chicago’s business and foundation communities have been generous in helping these new schools make up the difference in funding and provide quality programs.
• Mission Driven. Charters are centered around, and committed to, a particular purpose and philosophy.
• In demand. Charter schools appeal to students whose needs are not being met by traditional public schools. In Detroit and Pontiac (in Melton's district), most charters have waiting lists, some with over 400 names. If more students apply than a school can accommodate, a lottery is held to determine admission.
Stephanie Van Koevering, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter Authorizers, said she and others in the charter school community are "mystified" by Melton's suggested charter reforms.
Giving parents a choice among schools helps to level the playing field for children of all socio-economic backgrounds.
However, if we look in his own House district in Pontiac (Melton represents Pontiac, Auburn Hills and Lake Angelus) we can clearly see the foolishness in his own backyard. For example, in the Pontiac School District, Perdue Academy and Washington Middle School Q both of which were closed after the 2005-06 school year Q revealed not only unused textbooks, but dozens of cases of used library and literature books. Microscopes, science education kits, chemistry course supplies, teacher resource kits, food preparation and serving appliances, office supplies, cleaning supplies, television sets, dated computers and musical instruments including pianos, electronic keyboards, xylophones and violins were also left behind.
Parents were shocked to find the basement cafeteria at Perdue Academy host to abandoned food, dead mice, scattered vermin droppings and a pungent odor emanating from the kitchen and freezer areas.
As tour participants entered the facility's kitchen, they found clothing scattered over the floors and an electric oven left on to heat the room. It appeared that unwelcome tenants had also used the building's pool as a staging area for bonfires.
Rep. Melton's will sit with people in his district to work to save Pontiac Schools but want to restrict charters. Pontiac schools will never get any better as long as you have old people with old ideas running the district. It is a dinosaur that has run out of gas.
And while Melton's anti-charter stance is very prevalent why don't he take a look at how students in Pontiac Schools cannot even follow simple dress code rules. We do not have this problem in charters.
Yet, Melton wants to cut 50% of the funding for charters.
The biggest excuse of why Melton is after charters is because Pontiac schools are losing students to charters. They are now attending schools in Pontiac like Pontiac Academy for Excellence.
The city of Pontiac was cited by the National Alliance for Public Charter schools as being in the "top 10" nationally for charter school presence. Cities on the list have at least 13 percent of all public school students served by charters.
Parents send their children to charters because of safety concerns. In Pontiac schools, students blatantly disregarding the dress code policy, disrupting class with cell phones and fighting have caused the school board to consider surveying teachers and staff to see if they're afraid of students.
The Pontiac School Board has been hearing about incidents from high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools.
Only about 40 percent of the district's parents are involved with their children's school experience. That means 60% do not give a damn about their children's welfare and therefore you have guys like Melton who steps in (as a representative of government) and says "I'll take care of the children." Just like foster care.
George Phifer, chief of school security, said a new safe school plan is being put into place - with Pontiac police officers, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Michigan State Police ready to respond when needed.
"Random searches are being done from the Pontiac Police, ATF and Michigan State Police at schools,"Phifer said.
The security force is about 11 in each high school and four to five in each middle school. A system of more than 230 surveillance cameras will be activated before the next school year, and the Pontiac police at the command center will be able to view what is going on inside any district school, he said.
Is this a school district or concentration camp? Yet, Melton wants to cut funding from charters.
School board member Damon Dorkins, who also is a Pontiac police officer, said he's witnessed unruly behavior by students when visiting schools.
"We have kids going crazy in the office in a building. They get five days' suspension and the next day it goes down to one day - when it is a serious incident."
Dorkins is among the board members frustrated with violations and lack of enforcement of the school dress codes and rules of behavior.
"Schools are having a huge problem related to cell phones. Kids are disrespecting adults, administrators and volunteers, causing chaos at the administration office," he said.
"Kids are making up stories to attack somebody. You have to hold those kids accountable. The building administrator is addressing the cell phone issue and getting heat for it.
"The saggy and baggy pants and gang-related clothing are in the schools now," even though they are banned by policy, Dorkins continued.
"If they are below their buttocks or their underwear, that's indecent exposure," he said.
Yet, Rep. Melton wants to cut funding for charter schools.
To me this is an all out assault on those who send their children to charter schools in Michigan. If Tim Melton wants to be a whore for the teacher unions in his district that will be on him.
However, when you are trying to cut funding for charters and send children back to an unsafe environment in Pontiac schools then I take that personally.
Melton's reckless behavior on this matter is criminal and should he introduce those packages of bills on cutting funding for charters we promise to fight like hell to defeat it. This makes no sense. Our civil rights are being violated by those who continue to obstruct progress with charters.
Many charter schools are experiencing similar situations, and many families register at more than one charter in the hopes of getting into one.
A survey of Michigan residents sponsored by the council this spring showed that 56 percent of respondents either strongly favor or somewhat favor charter schools, while 23 percent either strongly or somewhat oppose charters.
It is unbelievable that in this day and age, many children are "left behind" in schools that are not performing. They are left behind because of the lack of a good, solid education, and they are left behind because they are not given the same opportunities as others.
In our country, every child is entitled to a free, public education. Shouldn’t everyone be entitled to a quality education as well?
The One Choice PAC understands the need for more charter schools is crystal clear. Rep. Melton's comments have placed us on high alert and we are prepared to defend our charters and our children.
If Mr. Melton does not understand this position on charters then perhaps we need to look for another candidate in 2008 in District 29 to unseat him.