When I went to New York City to help found a new urban high school, I found principals were entrepreneurs. When I did my mid-career training at High Tech High, I found unrestrained principals and teachers building 21st century schools. It was their freedom more than money that was responsible for their innovation. We need to let our principals and teachers create great schools. -Chris Chiang
Creating an Environment for District Initiative and Innovation
Currently 912 schools operate as charter schools outside the 2,491 pages of the state education code (compare that to the 91 pages that charter schools must follow). There is a learned helplessness when the state controls all key decisions in a school. Increasingly, more traditional school districts like Cambrian are converting their own schools into charter schools in order to get a mega waiver from the majority of those well-intended but stifling state education rules.
After Prop 13, State Took Over Major Decision Making in Our Schools
Chris Chiang proposes allowing whole school districts, if they voluntarily choose, to convert their entire district into a charter district, with the full authority to retain and pursue parcel taxes and school bonds. Districts would receive funding in the form of a general purpose grants, so they, rather than Sacramento, would be able to decide how to use their funds best. These proposed charter districts would continue under their existing locally negotiated teacher agreements.
The goal isn’t to have charters compete with district schools, but to give district schools the same means to innovate as they had in 1960s. You have no choice but to take initiative when you are making all your own decisions. We can’t turn back funding overnight, but we can give back to our schools and principals the freedom to redesign their schools for the 21st century.
“I don’t know if we can do this. It’s a question of will.” -Larry Rosenstock, Founder of High Tech High
There Would Still be Accountability
As with all charters, these proposed charter districts must academically perform and complete financial audits to keep their freedom. They must abide by all laws that protect students with disabilities. If the charter district fails to perform, it will be reverted back to a traditional district. This bold reform will direct dollars away from bureaucracy and into the classroom.
How bad is the bureaucracy that our education code creates?
600 education bureaucrats to oversee 1,140,000 students.
Los Angeles Unified School District
3,696 education bureaucrats to oversee 664,233 students.
Source: Dan Rather Reports
Our state education system is filled with well intending laws and bureaucrats that inadvertently squash the one thing we must ignite in all our schools: entrepreneurism and innovation.