Mr. Mayor, Members of the School Committee:
I’d like to start out by publicly thanking Mayor Mitchell for sending a letter last week to Commissioner Chester asking him not to approve the City on Hill Charter School. I would also like to thank Mayor Mitchell, Dr. Larry Finnerty and City Councilor Henry Bousquet for recently testifying against the same charter.
Charter Schools claim amazing educational results but when one looks beyond the hype and puffery of their claims, a different picture emerges. And we don’t have to look much further than the Global Learning Charter School for evidence.
Global Learning claims that they educate all children – but they don’t. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data shows that they lose most of their students from the date of enrollment through grade 12. Over the last 10 years of their existence they have had hundreds of children enrolled in their school but fewer then 80 children have graduated. That is not success.
They claim they don’t really take any money from the school district because the money follows the student. In essence they claim they are cost-neutral. This so-called cost neutrality is costing New Bedford Public Schools millions of dollars each year – this year alone, over $6 million. That is not cost-neutral.
They claim that most, if not all, of their students pass the MCAS and go to college – Not true. They don’t count the hundreds of students who drop out or are counseled out of their school and come back to New Bedford Schools.
In spite of all Global’s claims and all the dollars they waste, they have not performed any better than New Bedford Public Schools. This year they were designated a level 3 school by DESE.
Although we don’t have any control over what Commissioner Chester will ultimately do, he has in the past approved charter schools in communities that do not want them – We do have local control over whether or not to approve charter-like schools in New Bedford – Innovation Schools.
These schools are asking you for the very same supports and services that you, the New Bedford School Committee, have told us you cannot afford.
Some of the items we have requested on behalf of our students and teachers are:
· Smaller classes sizes so that we better serve our children.
· New books. And in many cases, books because we don’t have them.
· More Art, Music, and Physical Education classes for our students.
· More paraprofessional services, especially in the younger grades.
· Social workers in our schools to meet the demand of the growing needs of our students.
· More after school educational and sports programs for our children.
· Monies for field trips and other enrichment opportunities for our children.
· Working computers and other technologies in our classrooms.
· More health classes.
· More technology teachers.
· More individual planning and common time for our teachers.
· More professional development opportunities for our teachers.
As you can see, we been asking for the same supports and services the Innovation School proponents say are necessary for success. The difference is that we’ve been asking for these items for all of our children and teachers.
They want these supports and services just for the schools they are proposing.
In fact, they have designed their prospectus so that their proposed schools will be immune from possible future budget cuts and shortfalls. Their school budgets and services would be maintained and the rest of the district would take the hit.
In closing, I’d like to say that the proponents of these schools say that you should approve them because they are necessary, but equally important is that they say all of the extra services these schools will provide are cost-neutral
If that is correct, why have you, the New Bedford School Committee, denied the supports and services that we have been requesting years, for our kids and teachers across our district?