Strange Moments in Liveblogging and Support for School Choice
It probably isn’t even accurate to call this “liveblogging,” but I’m at the Tiverton School Committee meeting, mostly researching contract issues online while the committee handles small matters of the sort in which most people in the world would have no interest. On the agenda are two families seeking permission to send their children to Rogers High School in Newport, and the committee and Superintendent Bill Rearick were discussing with the parents the option of handling the matter in executive session for the sake of their children’s privacy.
Out of nowhere, committee member Leonard Wright “warned” the parents that I’d be putting their statements on the Internet. Not sure how I feel about that. Presumably, the meeting is being recorded for the public record anyway, and the notion that I’d dip into private details on Anchor Rising suggests that Mr. Wright has been dealing with unions for too long.
As I listen, though, it occurs to me that this sort of discussion is probably among the most important for residents, and especially parents, to be able to hear. The crux of the matter is the parents’ right to enroll their children in academic programs in other districts that would better suit their needs. Their personal circumstances are largely irrelevant.
These students are already on track to participate in a part-time vocational program at Rogers (periods one and two every day), which is apparently their right under Rhode Island law. At least one of the parents is extremely disappointed in the education that her child has received over the past four years in Tiverton Middle School — specifically with the lack of helpfulness and motivation among multiple teachers — so she wants him to enroll full-time in Newport for high school.
School Committee Chairman Jan Bergandy has made the argument that other parents will come forward and request to send their children to other schools — public and private — under the same logic. Good. This friction is utterly unnecessary and should be alleviated with the implementation of a statewide voucher program.
What all parents should witness is this group of five people — the school committee — standing in judgment of parents’ circumstances. I don’t mean this as an insult to them, but to a system in which towns collect property taxes and the state collects various other fees and taxes for the purpose of educating children, but only those who can afford to pay an additional tuition on top of that can make decisions for their own. Otherwise, they have to beg the school committee.
The district should be in the position of selling the value of their programs, not explaining why they cannot permit students to go elsewhere.
Nobody wanted to make the motion, so Chairman Jan Bergandy took it upon himself. Carol Herrmann seconded. The vote to deny the appeal was unanimous. (They actually took a separate vote for each student, but the results were the same.)
I wonder if the reduction of students to such utter despondency that they kick over chairs when five strangers deny them the ability to attend a school of their choice will be part of the new teacher evaluation standards. Perhaps contracts could fund the out-of-district tuition of students who’ve been poorly served locally.