Nancy Follansbee, Judith Houle & Craig Jurgensen: Leave no child’s school district behind



Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2016

We are writing in regard to the Dec. 18 commentary by Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. Kenen was responding to an opinion piece published Dec. 9 from John Provost, the Northampton superintendent, and William Diehl, executive director of the Collaborative for Educational Services.

It is important to note that this opinion piece was developed and signed by 16 of the 19 superintendents in Franklin and Hampshire counties, including each of us.

We respect the legislative process and hope to contribute vital information to the debate.

For citizens and their legislative representatives to vote on the expansion of charter schooling we need to understand the true costs and benefits of charter schools and traditional public schools.

While Kenen’s essay contributes to that public understanding, it does not fully address the central points that we were voicing — that charter schools disproportionately impact rural and small school districts; that we need policies that recognize and are responsive to that fact; and that charter school decisions should not be solely based on the conditions in Boston and other urban centers.

In our opinion piece, we said nothing that could be construed as “tearing down” our local charter schools.

We did note that there was room for debate — as Kenen’s commentary so clearly demonstrates — about the value, impact, funding, and accountability of charter schools.

Most importantly, we said nothing to suggest that we were not putting children first.

We differ on how best to do that.

Public education policy in the Commonwealth should serve all students well, rather than serving some at the expense of others. Public (non-charter) schools educate all children.

In the face of financial constraints and the drain of funding to our schools, in part as a result of tuitions to charter schools, our school districts face a serious challenge to the quality schooling we are able to provide all children and their families who are committed to our community schools.

The debate over charter schools needs to be informed by the reality in the local communities where it will be most fully felt. We ask for people to consider how the existence of charter schools impacts the education of all students in our communities.

All children including the children who remain in traditional public schools should benefit from the presence of charter schools. We cannot set aside financial considerations nor can we leave unexamined the demographics of charter students in our local area.

So we ask for people to consider how the existence of charter schools impacts the education of all students in our communities.

Nancy Follansbee is sSuperintendent in Easthampton, Judith Houle is interim superintendent in Granby and Craig Jurgensen is superintendent of the Hampshire Regional School District.






 


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