Retiring State Rep. Cleon Turner picks up the howl of town school districts’ complaints

He reveals his true intent – the de-funding of charter schools to protect traditional school districts whose students are fleeing by the hundreds
Cleon is missing the two golden keys to education.

Let Charters Be Charters, Raise Bar on School Choice

Charter school governance promotes innovation

Once again a Cape legislator acted as a mouthpiece for certain flailing public school districts in an op-ed for the old media daily.

However, this time Cleon Turner opened his bag of tricks and showed us his true intent – the de-funding of charter schools to protect traditional school districts whose students are fleeing by the hundreds.

We assume he was bought by the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools when it awarded him its Recognition Award last year for his commitment to regional school students, see the links below.

We will be watching to see what Mr. Turner's next (lobbying?) job may be.

Charters’ built-In flexibility

Attack dog Turner picks up the howl of town school districts’ complaints that charter schools are not subject to the same regulations and governance that constrain traditional public schools.

We believe this is a strength of charter schools. It gives them a maneuverability that is unheard of in a town school district, removing the impediment inherent in micro-management by elected school boards.

We should learn from past conflicts

Remember when DY’s Carol Woodbury wanted to buy iPads for some of their students? The district’s two towns put her through the Nine Circles of Hell, appearing in front of one board after another. Often she faced the same citizen opponent at every meeting, telling the same story over and over again.

What about when Sandwich’s Richard Canfield exercised his administrative authority and purchased iPads in a move towards e-textbooks? Again, the crucifixion cabals were forming before the tablets even arrived in town.

In contrast, think of the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School’s “Math in Action” program to promote skill recovery among students who arrived from town school districts without the most basic number sense skills. CCLCS was able to move quickly because they were not encumbered by an elected school board trying to micro-manage the school.

One of the elements of “Math in Action” was to change math and science classes to be “tracked” – grouped by ability. If Barnstable’s schools wanted to switch to a tracking model, Superintendent Czajkowski would need to spend a year discussing and defending that position in endless public meetings.

And then there is the affliction of elected school committees, like the one in Sandwich that cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars by its conduct in the Mary Ellen Johnson matter. And let’s not forget the scandal surrounding Mashpee’s superintendent selection process last year – when the board essentially “blew off” a visit to one candidate’s school district and then tossed its first selection into the dustbin of history so it could promote a local teacher directly to the superintendent’s chair.

Then there’s the ongoing “massacre” of school principals in the Monomoy District as the school board and its superintendent make one perplexing decision after another.

Let’s raise the bar on School Choice

Rep. Turner makes a point that traditional school choice students cost far less tuition ($5,000 to $6,000 per child) than a charter choice student.

Thank you for raising that point, Cleon.

Maybe we’re looking at this wrong. Instead of Rep. Turner trying to reduce the tuition paid to charter schools perhaps we should increase school choice tuition to match the level of charter school tuition.

That would certainly wake up a few school districts on the Cape!

Competition breeds Excellence

Competition between school districts raises the bar on excellence.

If school choice reimbursement was raised to the level of charter reimbursement this would create incentive for all school districts to improve their programs – or face de-funding by its own dissatisfied students and their parents.

Three Cape Cod School Districts rather than eight

Better still, the weak school districts would have their funding reduced to a level where they would be forced to regionalize with stronger school districts. This would bring better education opportunities for all students.

Raising the bar on traditional school choice would hasten what will happen on Cape Cod in the next decade.

We will end up with three Cape Cod school districts rather than the present eight:

  • One, a Lower Cape district that stretches from Harwich to Provincetown,
  • A second Mid Cape district that covers Barnstable, Dennis and Yarmouth and
  • A third Upper Cape district that covers Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee and Sandwich.

Such a move would reduce administrative overhead, end duplication of services and give our students unparalleled choices in education.


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