Like Petros Panagakos, I too am a retired educator, and like him I too am impressed with the success of the charter school movement (Maine Voices, March 25). So why does he say Maine is “blessed” not to permit charter schools?

As a former teachers’ union leader, he knows very well why we do not have charter schools, because it has been the Maine teachers’ union that time and again has lobbied the Legislature to forbid such “successful” alternatives to the existing schools.

There is no question that the union has done much to improve the wages and benefits of Maine teachers, but it also has been a principle barrier to educational reform, and the protector of the status quo.

It is true that charter schools would compete with the established schools for dollars because the money a school gets is determined to some extent by the number of students it has, and when an alternative school attracts a Maine student, state money would follow that child. The union, and the existing schools, are opposed to such competition. There are some excellent schools in Maine and many fine and innovative teachers making them so. Portland’s King Middle School, featured recently in this paper, is such a school, and if charter schools were permitted in Maine, it might receive a few of the millions of dollars the federal government would send to Maine if our Legislature did not ban charters.

Charter schools are public schools, too, but they have the advantage of being able to break with many of the traditional, out-dated state requirements that stymie innovation. They are not “for profit” institutions. If some of our teachers and the unions who speak for them were more concerned about their students than their own financial interests, we would be “blessed” with charter schools in Maine.

 


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