For the next week, I will debate Cal Poly Pomona professors Walter P. Coombs and Ralph E. Shaffer on the pros and cons of education reform proposals at the Los Angeles Times opinion pages.
The first installment is a debate over Mayor Villaraigosa as charter school authorizer in Los Angeles.
L.A. city councilman Richard Alarcón's plan to have Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa take over the Los Angeles Unified School district by using California's notoriously easy charter school route is a brilliant idea that just won't work. It's another noble effort easily sold to a gullible public but fraught with danger to the schools, the parents and the city.
For the whole Los Angeles Time debate go here.
Contrary to Walter and Ralph's claims, Richard Alarcón's plan to have Mayor Villaraigosa and the city council run charter schools is a sound plan with a very successful precedent in Indianapolis. Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat, has authorized 16 charter schools in Indianapolis since 2002, serving 4,000 children.
Richard and Walter are incorrect that charter schools cherry-pick students. The number of charter schools nationwide grew by 11% in 2006, serving a student body that is on average 53% minority and 54% low-income, according to the 2007 Annual Survey of America's Charter Schools, released last week by the Center for Education Reform.
In Indianapolis, charters have enrolled some of the most disadvantaged students in the city. These students enrolled in charters are far behind their peers in district-run public schools. On average 22% of new charter students passed the state assessment in reading and math, compared with 44% of students in the Indianapolis school district. Yet, these same students have made strong gains in charter schools over time. On average, charter schools have improved pass rates on the Indiana state assessment by 22 points between 2003 and 2005.