Monster school system looms

Published 12:01 pm Friday, July 1, 2016

Because the warranty on my crystal ball has run out, predicting future events and circumstances is more difficult. And with conditions and laws shifting so rapidly in public education, suggesting what’s coming to a town near you is difficult. But a bit of guessing is not out of bounds.

One of the results of the current trend to scuttle public schools is that all the openness about them and their operations goes away. The corporation with the deed to a school will be able to operate fairly loosely. (Speaking of deeds, one can only wonder how quickly public school facilities will become the property of charter schools.) Unsuccessful applicants for positions or folks kicked out of the system won’t be able to challenge unfair treatment before the law as they can now. Note also that corporations will pick the heads of their charter schools — not the voters or elected public officials.

A second likelihood is that schools may well compete for selected students. After all, a student body with a 3.5 GPA will produce more stellar graduates than one with a C-average student body. Sort of like car makers who flaunt the awards they get from safety tests. Sales go up.  Of course, the “perfect” student recruit is the poor kid who can’t afford private education but who has an A average. Additionally, as parents can choose the school district they want their children in, the geography of education will shift.

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For sure, recruiting is likely on the playing field. What charter school will not want to brag about its pennant record on the gridiron or the diamond of the basketball floor? Winning teams attract folks who want to enjoy the glory of saying their boy or girl goes to the school with the biggest trophy case.

As public education shuts down, might we not expect prescribed curricula and subjects will go away? One might assume that as charter schools become the norm, there will be little need of a State Department of Education. After all it may be argued, that system failed, giving rise to charter schools as an improved alternative. What group of objective citizens review the curriculum of charter schools — the corporation CEO and his pals?

One more evolution may well occur. With public education all children are eligible to participate. Yes, special ed class may irritate folks, but those kids are in public schools. But what happens with charter schools? Consider that special schools might be set up to teach the difficult or slow-learning child. Will we in time see charter training schools that announce up front that their best academic programs are too tough for some children but they have skills training in selected schools? Why, kids can be taught basic carpentry, welding, auto repair, cooking, horticulture. At least they will emerge from their fundamental education with talents that may land them jobs. (By the way, notice that many of the skills in the previous sentence should be being taught in many public schools today but are not. Their place has been usurped by digital training of various kinds.)

Please allow one other prognostication. The charter school world will include a new specialty line: the recruiter. That person’s job will be to seek out the students whose performance may enhance the standing of a school. Just as athletic scouts look for potential stars, so school recruiters will search for noteworthy young brains.

I’m going to hold this piece a few days in case my crystal ball gets fixed. In the meantime, the legislature will be working diligently to create this monster school system I’ve described. Maybe one of them will be chosen Education Reformer of the Year.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at Ole Miss, can be reached at