There is confusion over what a charter school is. A charter school is one that’s often operated by a private, for-profit, company that takes taxpayer money to educate students. Often times the school pays a profit to its shareholders with the money it receives from the government and doesn’t spend on education.
Charter schools are nothing new and have been sold under the banner of “school choice” promising increased educational outcomes. Unfortunately study after study of outcomes in charter schools in Michigan, Texas, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have shown that they are not effective. These expensive experiments funnel taxpayer money into private companies where are our children are sold to the highest bidder. This weakens the overall public school system by taking resources away while delivering nothing in return. These charter schools often only take the easiest kids to teach, excluding children with individual education plans, behavioral challenges, and other issues to work through.
Private companies have lobbied hard to pass laws allowing them to take public funding for their for-profit operations. They know that government checks cash and that that education spending is one of our largest taxpayer expenses. Because of their failure in other states there is no reason to repeat those mistakes here in Kentucky. Our children deserve a great education provided by dedicated and qualified teachers. Because our district is rural it is unlikely we will see the benefit of “choice” that is being promised. Most of these charter schools are likely to be found in city areas like Louisville, Lexington, and Northern Kentucky. Taking money from rural schools for the benefit of city schools is unacceptable.
Studies have shown that one of the best ways to better education is to allow more local control over the schools. Local school boards, administrators, and teachers know what their school and their students need. By permitting them to hear directly from the community and tailor their school to those needs students will perform better. The truth is, anything a charter school can do, we can let our schools do better. Combined with increased technical and occupational training we can help raise wages and put folks out who are ready to work. This will help our schools serve the whole community and not just the ones who want to get college degrees.
Education is essential and there are no easy fixes. We believe that the best way to provide a great education in our public school system starts with looking at the problem as a whole rather than quick easy promises of “choice.” We must compensate our educators appropriately and competitively so that we don’t lose them to neighboring states or other professions. We must increase parental involvement, ensure accountability, and focus on providing teachers the resources to TEACH. Our educators are too often teaching, feeding, clothing, transporting, providing support, and acting as our first line for kids in need. By helping children in need we can have them at their desks, fed, and ready for a day of learning!
Our Addiction Epidemic
As a former public defender, and a citizen of the Commonwealth, I have watched pills and heroin steal a generation from Kentucky. As the pill pipeline becomes more difficult to access for addicts and drug dealers, heroin is coming from Mexico and Canada. Heroin with its unknown potencies and purity causes a significant number of deaths and overdoses. Dealers now add fentanyl and carfentanil to the heroin causing more overdoses and killing people in our community.
Overdoses aren’t the only issue we confront with drug addiction. Byproducts of addiction include unemployment, family instability, children being placed in foster care. Addicts often resort to crime to support their habit causing the entire community to suffer. As an attorney who works in dependency, neglect, and abuse courts I watch children go through the agony of separation from family as parents fall into the addiction cycle. The societal costs of addiction are enormous and the personal costs are heartbreaking. Drugs target all populations without discrimination.
Historically addiction has been treated as a criminal problem. If we can incarcerate users for long enough we can punish the addiction out of them. We know after decades of taking this approach that incarcerating addicts does not solve the problem. They return to the streets and taxpayers continue to pay huge sums for a failing system that costs our communities and families.
Addressing addiction in a more scientific and cost monitored manner in cooperation with law enforcement is necessary to resolve this problem. A public health approach which addresses addiction itself, mental health needs, employment, and family stability will provide a path out of addiction. Importantly to us taxpayers, this is much less expensive than simply warehousing people. The government must account to us for the money they spend and that spending has to produce results. This plan finally gives us something in return for the money we’re spending.
Now is the time to set aside our frustration and anger and begin developing and executing real solutions to this problem; solutions that will show us results. Our willingness to reevaluate how to treat addiction will save families and communities.