First, we learned that the nascent Obama administration has picked Stanford
education professor Linda Darling-Hammond to lead the policy side of the transition operation at the U.S. Department of Education. She is a pleasant and smart woman but she surely does harbor a lot of retro ideas about education. She’s Public Enemy #1 of Teach for America, for example, and for twelve years (since her report, “What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future“, came out) has been the nation’s foremost embodiment of the view that improving teachers ought to be America’s chief reform strategy, the heck with standards-and-accountability on the one hand and school choice on the other. If her policy views dominate the new administration’s education-policy stance, groups such as Democrats for Education Reform might as well take a LONG vacation. The unions and the ed schools will be overjoyed.
Rather than getting too concerned about speculation, actions carry more weight with me. Any deference to the teacher's union power in the U.S. doesn't bode well for charter schools, which are the bane of teacher's unions. Further, the Teach for America program has brought many talented teachers into the classrooms of Colorado's public schools.
I'm looking for something tangible for charter schools from the new Obama administration. I'm a bit jaded after his May visit to the Mapleton Expeditionary School for the Arts (MESA) when he referred to it as a "charter school" for weeks and it isn't.
I've heard that President-elect Obama has said he'd double the funding for charter schools. But lest anyone already associated with a charter school in Colorado think they'll get more money for their school through this proposal, the startup and implementation grant in No Child Left Behind is presently capped at $199 million, but is only for new charter schools in up to their third year of operation. Moreover, in order to be eligible for this grant program, or the charter school credit enhancement program, charter schools must use a federally-approved lottery system for enrollment. Many of the older charter schools in Colorado use another means of enrollment and several others, after they've spent these federal grant dollars, have modified their lottery in order to increase access to more at-risk students. I'm all for new charter schools getting more startup and implementation grant funds. But, across the nation, the focus has been on creating more quality public charter schools, not just the number of more charter schools.
So I'm holding out for something with merit for charter schools. This might be greater facility financing options for charter schools to access, more educational options available to parents whose children are in failing public schools, or even less federal regulation on charter school enrollment lotteries. In fact, I'd even cheer if I heard the Obama daughters were going to enroll at the KIPP charter school in Washington, DC!