Follow the Money to Charter-Town

Below are remarks I delivered to the OKCPS board on April 25, 2016 about the district’s proposed charter expansion:

I am not a conspiracy theorist, I simply follow the money. My mother taught me from a young age to think critically about issues involving money and power, and that’s why I’m here. I know when I see private funds buying public policy. I am horrified by the fact that the Inasmuch Foundation, despite their charitable vision, has essentially purchased the district’s resolve to privatize education.

How can you seriously believe that you are offering equity of voice at community meetings when the facilitators of the conversation have been funded by charter proponents? How can you approve of the fact that concerned citizens were only allowed to express their concerns using yellow scraps of paper, stickers, and felt-tipped markers?

I attended the first public meeting hosted by KIPP Reach in which the heads of KIPP claimed that they serve the same types of students as other schools in their community. In fact, they even provided a handout with the state report card for their school, as well as the state report cards for other schools in the community. They did not provide demographic data, they simply assured folks that the populations were similar. I chose to look up the stats in OKCPS’s annual report, and was incensed to find that KIPP dared to contrast their shiny report card grade of “A” with Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary’s less flattering “F.”

demographicsUpon little investigation, I learned that the homeless population reported for KIPP is 1%, while MLK’s is 17.2%. KIPP’s special ed population is measured to be 5.6% of the school population, while MLK’s is measured at 14.4%. Additionally, MLK’s Gifted and Talented program makes up 1.5% of students, while KIPP’s program makes up 8.9% of students.

If KIPP was really concerned about the same students as other neighborhood schools, they would not have misrepresented their student sample as similar to nearby schools’. We cannot trust an organization that makes public claims that they cannot back up with valid data.

To usurp the resources and facilities of existing neighborhood schools is both ethically and morally wrong. I urge you to reject the proposed expansion and instead to support the educators, schools, and families who are already working to improve Northeast OKC schools.