DSM: The King's Tune

From: Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Date: Sun Nov 25 2001 - 17:31:50 EST


Morticia, you raise tremendous points!

> why don't the schools work on getting the state to support a
> _wide-open charter school policy_ as is possible in Oregon?

To explain the answer to this, I have to tell a little history. For
quite a few years we were attempting to open Fairhaven as a
state-accredited private school. We were unable to get the Maryland
State Board of Education to budge even an inch on issues regarding
sequential and ordered curriculum, making it impossible for us to even
open as a non-public-supported private school. In other words, by this
point we had expended a great deal of our energy to try and lobby and
budge the system in very minute ways, all to no avail.

Now let's start speaking about the charter school concept in Maryland,
which has all of the bureaucratic inertia of the private school
regulations *plus* the weight of the public school lobby resting
squarely upon its shoulders.

Now, I can't really even speak for the whole of Fairhaven, only myself,
but in my opinion we are using all of our people/hour-power to make the
school viable and successful, fundraising for and building a new
building, and getting the word out to all the hundreds of thousands of
families in our area that we exist.

Based on my experience with the political and economic aspects of public
education legislation in our state, it would essentially be a complete
waste for us to abandon our very successful current direction and
allocation of resources to attempt to affect dramatic legislative change
in the area of public charter school policy in our state.

But assume for a second we were able to muster the Herculean effort to
make this sort of legislative change to the degree that would allow
Maryland public money pay for a Sudbury education, and that we became a
school which accepted many or all students that were paid for with
public funds. There are very large, well-funded organizations in
Maryland which really do not want the charter school to be opened to the
degree we are speaking of, and those NGOs aren't going anywhere. They
would be applying the same amount of pressure for Maryland B of E to
narrow the limits within which charter schools operate, year after year
after year. This would put us in the decidedly unadvisable position of
doing battle with the NEA, indefinitely, and for our very survival.

Add to this the fact that the Federal government could swoop in at any
time and require mandatory testing for _all_ publicly supported schools
in the nation. Yes, that's right, when you take money from the state
you're also taking it from the feds! I cannot, in good conscience,
support a move which would perch the financial foundation of our school
high in the limbs of the governmental money tree, only to be whipped
around by the ever-changing gale of legislative whim.

> you good people are doing what you can - starting good
> schools to do good things, but really your (generally
> speaking) position on tuition is the same as the SVS-minded
> good folk who work within the public school system: they do
> what they can within a system that isn't perfect. see the
> parallel?

Yes, I do. I have stated again and again that there are a tremendous
number of people in the public schools who essentially want the same
thing I do, which is for things to be "better". The questions which
separate me from pretty much all of these folks are, 1) What needs to be
done?, and 2) How can it be done. Given that I feel that what needs to
be done is *SO* far outside the framework of what the educational
lobbies will allow the governments to allow public schools to do, I feel
strongly that it cannot be done within the system.

We are doing everything we can to ensure that Fairhaven and the Sudbury
model survives and thrives, and the way we choose to do that is to work
*outside* the system. Our school doesn't operate *within* the
conventional school domain. A conscious decision has been made, based
on the sum of experience of our parents, founders (many of whom have
*extensive* experience trying to reform the mainstream public-funded
system) and students that efforts to change the mainstream education
bizness are _wasted_, unless the changes are so watered-down they amount
to simply feeding the system.

> the fact that hundreds of USD are needed to run
> the SVS schools shuts out plenty of people, whether this is
> the case with your particular school or not.

Like I said, I cannot speak for our entire school, much less other
schools. Our approach is to do everything we can to make Fairhaven
available to all students. It is an approach that has been arrived at
through much experience and many mistakes, and I think it is working and
will continue to work.

> _I, for one, am not interested in taking public money for the
> operation of Fairhaven. I don't want to ever be in a
> situation where the public or the government have a stake or
> say in the operation of our school, and legally, accepting
> public money gives it to them._
>
> i question whether this is an absolute truth. in fact i
> seriously doubt it.

It is an absolute truth that when an organization is receiving money
from the government, they must comply with that which the government
demands. If the organization cannot tolerate the demands placed on them
by the government, they will not be able to continue receiving the
funds. I find this fact impenetrable.

Even the folks at Blue Mountain School, with which I am familiar and
have visited, have requirements placed on them by the governmental
authority. Fortunately the requirements they are faced with have, for
the time being, proven tolerable, and have allowed them to function in
the manner they desire.

-Joe

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