Episode 003 - Chris Jensen, Public, Charter Schooling Mom turned to Homeschool
Lived in Seattle/Everett, Washington 1991-2003
Lived in Meridian, Idaho 2003-2008
Founder of Compass Public Charter School located in Meridian, Idaho
Served as Board Chair of Compass Public Charter School from 2005-2007
Served as Community Relations Specialist for Taylor’s Crossing Public Charter School 2008-2010
Served as Business Manager of Monticello Montessori Public Charter School 2010-2012
Served as Computer Specialist teacher at Taylor’s Crossing Public Charter School 2012-2013
Currently resides in Georgetown, TX
Homeschool teacher for youngest child (18 mo. experience)
Member of C.H.A.P. (Christian Homeschoolers At Play)
For more thoughts on Chris' Charter School experience below
Thanks Chris for joining The Luminous Mind!
"Since 2003, I have been part of the public charter school movement in Idaho. All three of my children have attended public charter schools in Idaho and I have worked in various aspects. Below are a two observations I have made on how the charter school movement in Idaho has changed over the past 11 years:
First, I do think the make-up and staff of the Public Charter School Commission has definitely played a role in the changes. That lies at the feet of the current state governor and unfortunately, it is the result of what happens when a group is chosen by politicians. Those appointed are most often those that are the most politically connected.
This isn't me pointing fingers at specific charter commission members, I have known and have interacted with most of them and they seem nice enough. It is my understanding that the Commission members serve on a volunteer basis and are paid a small stipend for travel, lodging, and food expenses. That is as it should be. The Public Charter School Commission support staff is small and often only consists of one or two people. As a person who believes in small government, this would appear to be a good thing, but what has happened is that, those one or two individuals become a gatekeepers, of sorts. Once again, I have nothing personally against these individuals. They have been with the Commission since its inception and have had to literally find their way in their positions. No processes or policies were in place at the time they took the helm at the Commission. Both the staff and the Commission members started from scratch. They adopted best practices that they saw implemented in other states that have similar charter commissions and by trial and error they have developed what they believe works best for Idaho. The staff is made up of typical bureaucrats and because of their positions with the Commission they wield great power. Everyone in the charter community knows not to get on the Commission staff's bad side and they work very hard to make sure they stay in the staff's good graces. The Commission members rely heavily on their input and opinions. They can decide who they like, not because they are mean, political hacks, but because it is human nature. In Idaho, I've seen the charter school petitioners who lay the groundwork with the Commission and staff members and/or are politically and financially well connected treated differently than those who aren't. It is no different than what we see on a larger scale at the federal level. Organizations pay big money to lobbyists for access to decision makers and as a result they receive preferential treatment. So, although I am thrilled to have played a small part in improving Idaho's public charter school's laws from what they were initially and I have seen much good come as a result, in my opinion, the charter school's in Idaho, and I dare say the overall charter school movement, has become the victim of an ever growing federal and state education bureaucracy. As a result, the charter school movement that I once viewed as the bright light of education reform has lost its shine.
This brings me to my second point, I think it boils down to money, specifically tax dollars. Whenever you enter the realm of public education, you find yourself vying for tax dollars. Traditional public schools are threatened by public charter schools because they are after the same public education dollars. So a feeling of animosity develops between the two groups. At the same time, tax payers and politicians are demanding accountability from these groups who are receiving these precious tax dollars. As a result, school boards, administrators, and teachers are deluged with reporting, testing, and data collection requirements. All in the hopes that it will satisfy those demanding accountability. The bureaucratic paperwork is the same if you have a 1,000 or 100 students. The larger school districts have the capability of hiring administrative staff to deal with it all, unfortunately, public charter schools don't have the resources to hire additional support staff and the task often falls to the teachers and administrative staff to ensure they are in compliance. This time consuming effort often leaves these few individuals exhausted and unable to meet their other obligations. It is frustrating and often leads to a high turnover of both administration and teachers which further weakens the stability of an already small charter school. This has been my experience and the original idea of creating charter schools to be a place of educational innovation dies..
I'm not against accountability. Just like everyone else, I want to make sure our tax dollars are used appropriately. Unfortunately, the methods used to achieve that accountability is destroying the very institutions that they are suppose to be helping. Somewhere in the the tug-of-war between tax dollars and accountability, the needs of the children are lost. (Don't even get me started on the myriad of curriculum, testing, and data collecting companies who circle those educational tax dollars like vultures.)
So, those are some of my observations as a previous public charter school founder, board member, business manager, teacher and they have led me to become a home school mom."