Chariho School Parents’ Forum

June 15, 2008

Mayor’s Academy clears a hurdle

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 12:46 am

A message from Angus Davis:

RI Charter Movement Makes Long Overdue Advance Thanks to Leadership of Mayor McKee

Last year, I met Mayor Dan McKee (D-Cumberland), an enthusiastic education reformer who inspires me with his well-informed, energetic hope for new public schools of choice in Rhode Island that could raise student achievement without increasing costs to taxpayers. Mayor McKee is not afraid to grab onto what so many consider a third rail in politics: structural reform of our public schools.

McKee joins a growing number of mayors that includes Adrain Fenty in DC, Mike Bloomberg in NY and Cory Booker in Newark who are making bold education reform strides. McKee, together with a coalition of Rhode Island mayors he assembled representing Central Falls, Lincoln, Pawtucket, Johnston, North Providence and Cranston, commissioned a study by nationally respected firm Public Impact, and proposed “Mayoral Academies,” a new type of charter school for Rhode Island. (See Providence Journal, June 4, 2008: “Try mayoral academies in R.I.”)

The proposal would allow Mayors to seek a charter in partnership with operators like KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Achievement First and Democracy Prep – proven non-profit organizations that close the achievement gap in neighboring states. Mayors follow the same authorization process and are subject to the same accountability oversight as all other charter schools. To allow extended school day, higher pay for performance, and assignment of the best teachers, this budget-neutral bill exempts Mayoral Academies from some onerous restrictions in the current charter statute pertaining to teacher tenure, prevailing wage restrictions, and forced participation in a defined benefit retirement system. The bill is budget neutral and enjoys bipartisan support of the legislative leadership and the Governor’s office.

Enthusiastically endorsed by respected columnist and education advocate Julia Steiny (“It’s time to open the doors to out-of-state school models”, June 1, 2008), the work has also attracted national attention, gaining support from The Center for Education Reform in Washington, DC., and Democrats for Education Reform in New York, a Federal PAC that supports Democrats willing to take on such issues, and several other notable groups who in the coming days plan to make their support known to Rhode Island.

For years, the charter movement in our state has been stymied by a ban on new charters, a cap on their number, an absent funding formula to allow them to grow in a cost neutral manner, a lack of involvement from mayors, and a long list of restrictions on how they can operate. Our charter community measured success not by progress, but by the absence of loss — that is to say, we celebrated when funds that had already been committed to charters were not taken away.

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” How thankful we should all be, then, that Mayor McKee asked and persisted, because last night, the leadership of the Rhode Island General Assembly answered “yes” to his call by putting Mayor McKee’s proposal to authorize “Mayoral Academies” into this year’s proposed budget and passing it out of the House Committee on Finance thanks to the leadership of Chairman Steven Costantino (D-Providence).

This was no small task. For years, attempts to end the charter moratorium have failed. But Mayor McKee enlisted a broad coalition of support. The legislation is strongly sponsored by Majority Leader Gordon Fox (D-Providence) and Majority Whip Peter Kilmartin (D-Pawtucket). It also enjoys the support of Providence Mayor David Cicilline.

Now attention turns to next week’s floor vote in the House, and the subsequent vote in the Senate. This could very well be the year the ban on charter schools in our state comes to an end, that Mayors take ownership of education reform in their communities, and that onerous restrictions in our charter law (ranked one of the weakest in the country) are finally eliminated.

Please join me next week as I and other supporters visit the State House to lobby for the passage of this bill — email me so I can share our plans with you (after our visit to the State House, we will organize a BBQ at my nearby home). Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Dan McKee and the support of our General Assembly Leadership, a new day could soon dawn for the charter movement in Rhode Island. Now more than ever, I need your help to make that day a reality.

Click to email me about joining a State House lobbying trip next week to expand charter schools in Rhode Island!

Thanks for listening, and I look forward to keeping in touch. Please feel free to forward this email; if you received this email from a friend and would like to be added to my list, simply drop me a line and I will add you.

Thanks,
-angus

Note: Although I serve on the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, the views expressed herein are my own, and not those of the full board.

For an archive of posts on RI education reform issues, see the Best for Kids blog, “Passing Notes,” at: http://blog.bestforkids.org/

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4 Comments »

  1. received this update in an e-mail. Just in case anyone is interested.

    The Finance Committee also approved the creation of a “Mayoral Academy” charter school, touted by Mayor McKee of Cumberland, this charter school would be exempt from the teacher certification requirements imposed by RIDE, teacher retirement, teacher tenure and would allow the Commissioner to grant variances from a number of Title 16 requirements. There seems to be quite a bit of opposition and more than a few questions.

    a.Is a district obligated to provide bussing when the school runs past standard hours or during the summer?

    b. What happens if a city or town refuses to appropriate money or pulls out?

    c.Will health and safety requirements be exempt?

    The unions are preparing a number of amendments, for tomorrow’s House floor debate, to remove or seriously curtail the Mayoral Academy from the budget.

    Comment by bpetit — June 17, 2008 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  2. Bob,
    I watched with great interest the debate on this last night on Capital TV. One thing that was mentioned is that the item was actually just to allow a study of the proposal, there was no funding at all for this. The restrictive amendment failed and the article passed.

    From the ProJo:

    http://www.projo.com/news/content/STATE_BUDGET.2_06-19-08_G5AIG4B_v35.206617.html

    Lawmakers ultimately approved the mayoral academy, rejecting a proposal to reverse some of the freedoms for the proposed school. “In a lot of ways, public education got a big win tonight,” said the bill’s architect, Cumberland Mayor Daniel J. McKee.

    Comment by CharihoParent — June 19, 2008 @ 9:08 am | Reply

  3. Dan Yorke of WPRO talked about the Mayoral Academy today on his program. He played audio of Mrs. Walsh shrieking about charter school supporters not respecting teachers. Mr. Yorke called her tirade “filthy lies”.

    He also had a teacher call in from Cumberland who said he favors the Mayoral Academy. The teacher hopes the school is successful and will lead the way to better educational outcomes for all Rhode Island children. Putting the needs of the students before the wants of the educational establishment…now there is a teacher we can respect.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 19, 2008 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  4. One of the biggest wins the Mayoral Academy can have is to remain a non-union educational facility. If you notice, the biggest objectors are usually the union hacks and current and former teachers. I had to applaud the representative, I believe his last name was Alves, who stood up and said how he had only heard from teachers in regards to the article that was about their contract negotiations in regards to health care but not one called him about the article for the Mayoral Academy. To me, it shows where the concern by the teachers really is, not the kids but their wallets.

    Comment by CharihoParent — June 20, 2008 @ 7:10 am | Reply


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