Charter School Proposal Rebuffed

Another charter school proposal is rebuffed. The Topeka school board recently rejected 3 proposals for a charter school. In Kansas (unlike most states), if a charter school petition is rejected by the local district, there is no recourse.

According to one press account, “It took only minutes for the seven Topeka school board members to reject the plans at a meeting Thursday night. Many said they lacked enough information and were concerned about what it would cost to get the two aging buildings ready by August.” (Source: Charter-school advocates say their fight won’t end, Wichita Eagle, January 5).

In an essay published by the Wall Street Journal the day before the decision (What’s the Matter With Kansas?), Jason L. Riley drew on the symbolism of Topeka: “the project has another significant backer in the person of Cheryl Brown Henderson, a daughter of the lead plaintiff in the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended 300 years of legal black oppression.”

“Current school board members,” Riley continued,  “don’t share the racial animus of their predecessors, to be sure, but like other local school boards nationwide they do have a vested interest in preserving the public education status quo. Either way, the result is that a disproportionate number of minority students and families who’ve long been ill-served by Topeka’s traditional public schools are being deprived of viable alternatives.”

They are being deprived, he says, by a preference for maintaining the status quo that makes it unnecessarily difficult for charter schools to open:

“When opponents can’t prevent a state legislature from enacting a charter law, they work hard to keep the law as weak as possible. And the most effective way of blocking charters is by giving union-controlled local school boards exclusive authority over their creation, as Kansas has done.”

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