I read with interest the charter schools story, “Backers see options, foes predict problems” (May 13). Backers and foes can both be right.

When you look at the performance of charter schools, you don’t see any significant improvements in student learning. And let’s always keep “student learning” in sight. If charter schools have anything other than student learning in their proverbial sights, then there’s a problem. And it’s this problem that concerns me about charter schools.

When I look at charter schools in general, I see a Janus-faced educational movement saying with one face, it’s about one thing — improving student learning — but being about something entirely different — religion, segregation or profit. The “motive” underlying charter schools and how they are implemented matters.

For me, the question becomes, “Is the legislation to establish the State Charter School Commission leading us toward the improvements Maine students need to succeed?” Maybe, maybe not. It’ll depend on motive and implementation.

Will teacher certification standards for charter schools be high or will they be lowered like they have been in Texas, which uses an alternative certification process for teachers in its charter schools? What kinds of accountability will be built into Maine’s charter schools to ensure that the instructional core of every charter school classroom is strong?

I am concerned that Maine might jump into the charter-school business without considering carefully the jump’s impact on our public education and its rapidly shrinking resources. It’s about more than the simplistic notion of “choice.” It’s about our children, their success and Maine’s future. If it’s about profit, religion or anti-public employee union sentiment, then I don’t want it.

If we want students to succeed in our public schools, then we have to ensure that our schools have the resources for success. Period.

Michael Ehringhaus

Portland

It appears that our state legislators have bought the official line that charter schools are about innovation and providing alternatives for “at risk” students, regardless of the lack of evidence for this after over 20 years of implementation throughout the nation and world.

They apparently also believe that charter schools are public in nature even though they are privately managed, and that the diversion of public dollars will not adversely affect existing public schools.

As the bill moves from committee to the floors of the Maine House and Senate, I would propose at least the following five amendments:

1. Allow the proposed state Charter Commission the authority to oversee charter authorizers, but not to be a charter authorizer itself — state authorization is a means of bypassing local control of schools;

2. Exclude for-profit education management organizations from operating in Maine — they allow taxpayer dollars to be siphoned into the private financial industry;

3. Prohibit the use of parent interviews and contracts for admissions to charter schools — they are a covert way of selecting students both in and out of charters regardless of lotteries;

4. Require a public audit of all charter finances and sunshine laws regarding public meetings — there is quite a history of fraud and malfeasance in charter schools because, unlike public schools, they are allowed to conduct their affairs secretly;

5. Exclude virtual charter schools — they are a means of allowing out-of-state corporations to have access to Maine public funds by way of homeschoolers.

Given the prevalent free market ideology in today’s governments and the overwhelming corporate influence on elected officials, I understand that our Maine legislators may find it difficult to take a stand against charter schools. But at least they could take most of the sting out of them.

Ken Jones

Associate professor,

University of Southern Maine

Westbrook

Cancer Society stands behind warnings it made on new law

State Rep. Jonathan McKane unfairly criticized the American Cancer Society in his May 11 column (“There’s a war being waged on health care reform in Maine”).

As a member of the American Cancer Society’s board of directors, I know first-hand that the society is an evidence-based organization. The public expects us to use our research, knowledge and experience to inform them about the potential impact that legislation can have upon cancer patients and their families.

Our recommendations on legislative proposals, in Maine and across the nation, are made after careful review; they are always non-partisan and always based on what is best for cancer patients and their families.

The American Cancer Society, the Maine Medical Association, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, AARP and other organizations have expressed concerns about LD 1333 at various times because it would have made changes to consumer protections that have benefited Maine’s most vulnerable residents for nearly two decades.

Early on in the legislative process, the American Cancer Society was concerned that this legislation could have denied individuals access to all types of insurance plans.

Thankfully, in a subsequent amendment, this potentially damaging provision was removed.

I am pleased that the Legislature heard the concerns raised by the American Cancer Society and many other organizations, and has taken action to remove some of the measures that would have been harmful to vulnerable populations, including cancer patients, in Maine.

The American Cancer Society stands behind every statement we have made as being accurate and fair, and in the context of the legislation as it was written at that time.

We will continue to work on behalf of the best interests of cancer patients and their families in Maine.

Susan Miesfeldt, M.D.

Board of directors,

American Cancer Society

and clinician investigator,

Maine Medical Center

Cape Elizabeth

Country doesn’t have long if insurance keeps rising

Gov. LePage granted big, profitable health insurance firms a possible 10 percent raise annually. In 10 years, that doubles what is happening now.

If insurance companies can get 10 percent more, the health care system will raise their prices by 10 percent.

Would that LePage extends a 10 percent raise annually in the minimum wage as well.

This is not what our founding fathers fought for. In fact, this country will be buried in its greed. The nation is only 235 years old, but it won’t last another 50 the way it is going.

Mary Dysinger

Fryeburg