School reform advocates like to say education is a civil right; they don’t believe it

What a great way to wake up in the morning.  Today, I read the Charter Board Partner’s vignette by David Connerty-Marin highlighting the work of Maria Blaeuer, who serves as a volunteer treasurer on the board of directors of Kingsman Academy PCS.  Last May, I interviewed Shannon Hodge, Kingsman’s executive director.  Mr. Connerty-Marin writes:

“When she was in private practice as a legal advocate working with special education students, Maria Blaeuer, who is now board treasurer at Kingsman Academy PCS in Washington, DC, spent much of her professional time in an adversarial role with schools, advocating for the needs of her student clients. While she felt her work was important, she was also frustrated by her limited ability to help change the problems in the system that were at the root of the issue.

‘One of the hard things about doing individual advocacy and litigation is that you’re only fixing it for one kid. After 10 years, I saw that when I fixed it for one kid, there were 10 more kids just like him, right behind. I wanted to be part of a space where I could work on a system to serve all of those kids. That’s really why I joined the Kingsman board.’

In addition to a specific and relevant skill set and experience, Maria says the most important thing a board member brings to a school board is a ‘belief and understanding that all kids have a civil and human right to education.’ And that belief makes the work both easier and more meaningful, she says. ‘Spreadsheets are boring, but spreadsheets in service of a human right are kind of amazing.'”

I, and numerous school reform advocates, have for decades echoed the emotionally moving words of Ms. Blaeuer.  But now I’m starting to believe that they are, in many cases, only that:  words.  Because if we truly believed in our hearts and minds that “all kids have a civil and human right to education” then perhaps we would do some or all of the following:

We would expand charter schools in the District to include management of low performing DCPS facilities.

A high performing charter school would offer to take over Ballou High School.

A high performing charter school would comer forward to add Excel PCS to its portfolio, whose charter was just revoked by the DC Public Charter School Board.

D.C.’s charters would accept children at any grade and at anytime throughout the school year.

The city would push to greatly expand the Opportunity Scholarship program that provides private school scholarships to kids living in poverty.

The Mayor and City Council would resolve the inequitable public funding of charters compared to the traditional schools and thereby end the FOCUS engineered lawsuit charters have brought against the local government.

Policy leaders would once and for all solve the charter school facility problem so that each and every school that needs a building would be entitled to one.

This time of year we watch the newsreels of what Martin Luther King, Jr. and other exceedingly brave men and women did in the name of civil rights.  When it comes to the person to play his part regarding education in the nation’s capital, there is currently a vacancy.

 

 

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