I listened to hours of testimony on House Bill 1002 on Wednesday, looking for some explanation of why it's necessary to move ahead immediately opening more charter schools in Indiana. I didn't hear one.
The back-and-forth over which perform better – charters or traditional public schools – never gets to the heart of the debate: Why haven't charter schools produced the innovation promised? Why aren't they serving as the laboratories for best practices that supporters said they would be? Why do so many look like poor imitations of their nearby public schools?
If charter schools are clearly better, why does the Indiana Department of Education's list of 188 Four Star Schools include only one? And why isn't the state focusing on the truly successful, innovative charter schools, including Evansville's Signature School, and working to replicate those programs elsewhere?
In the end, the hours and hours of testimony only made me more certain that the real intent of the charter school bill is to reduce education funding overall by opening new schools with mostly unlicensed, low-paid teachers.
What I did hear were good arguments from parents and providers of virtual charter schools. There is a need for more options in online learning, provided the right regulations are in place. That's where lawmakers should focus their efforts, rather than defending an expansion of charter schools when there aren't enough dollars to support the schools we have.