For those who do not know, there is talk at the state capitol about bringing charter schools to Nebraska. This is not a new talk by any means as a similar bill was struck down last year.
On it's face, it sounds fool-proof. Give families a choice when it comes to their child's education? I'm all about that.
However, there are unintended consequences that would put the shaft to Nebraska's already-established public and parochial schools were this bill to go through.
While I'm all about the freedom of choice, I cannot support any choice that takes from an already-short supply of resources. And if choice is the main selling point of Charter schools, then I'd like to point out the many options families have for their students. We have Waverly students whose family chose to opt them into our district from LPS (and, I'm sure, vice-versa). I have colleagues whose children attend parochial schools in nearby Lincoln. And speaking of, there are 22 parochial schools in Lincoln, an abundance of public elementary, middle and high schools, three Montessori schools in Lincoln and a smattering of Alternative Public Schools peppered across the state.
Choice is not a problem families have in Nebraska.
As a public school educator and father of children who will attend public schools, it is my duty and privilege to be one of many voices to speak out on behalf of my kids--both biological and surrogate children vis-a-vis school--to our state representatives and leaders.
Below is an email sent to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.
As parents, taxpayers, students and community members, if you believe strongly about the education opportunities District 145 offers its students, please consider supporting public schools and let our elected officials know it. You can contact Gov. Ricketts here.
Greetings! My name is Blake Tobey; I'm a Language Arts teacher in Waverly, Nebraska.
I've seen a lot of scuttle in the news about upcoming legislation that would impact public schools across the state. I trust you're getting an earful from all sides of the debate, and I can only imagine the difficulty in trying to process that landslide of information.
Part of that deluge of information is doubtlessly coming from concerned and passionate educators across the state. I'm sure anyone could concede that it's frustrating to have one's profession encumbered upon by individuals and groups who have no formalized training in that field (read: politicians passing legislation regarding education).
As a public school teacher and father, I, too, am heavily invested in what happens to our public schools--not because I'm worried about getting raises or brand-spanking new technology for the sake of having it, but because as an educator, I've dedicated my life (and, on some days, sanity) to my students' improvement. Not to mention, as a teacher married to another teacher, sending our children to a parochial school (or a possible charter school, should that ever come to fruition) is not a viable option. And honestly, even if it were an option, we both feel strongly about the power and promise of a public school education.
Instead of rambling on with a litany of reasons why public schools are not only effective but thriving in Nebraska and are thoroughly preparing Nebraska's future leaders and citizens, I'd like to personally invite you to come observe a little bit of what I do with students in Waverly. Luckily, we're just a stone's throw from Lincoln, so if anything it'll get you out of the city for an hour or two.
Depending on your availability, you're welcome to see freshmen or sophomore English classes, but what I would REALLY like to show you is our Journalism and Theatre workshop classes. These classes are career-prep classes that any student can take as often as they'd like. The students have full control over what possible career fields within those domains they'd like to explore, and once they find their knack and have a passion, they have the entire semester (or year...or years) to develop those skills as deeply and thoroughly as their passion can take them. This is a pilot we started this semester, but I daresay that any student with a passion for these career fields would be able to get similar experiences, opportunities and growth at our rural Nebraska public school as any student in a private conservatory.
Words are cheap (which is why my email is so long). The only way to do justice to the power and promise of Nebraska's public schools is for you to come out and see first hand what's happening in your state's schools.
As I would teach my own students--and biological children--it's foolish to make any decisions without going out and getting ALL the information; and in this case, you can't get all the information from bills, committees or long-winded speeches (or emails). How wonderful would it be if I could use you as an exemplar for my students when I teach them about research?
Come see me. Visit with my colleagues. Talk to our kids, for goodness sake! We'd love to host you.