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Regents vote no on Achievement First

September 2, 2011

The State Board of Education has voted against a plan for a network of charter schools in Cranston. The 7-1 vote came after a letter from Governor Lincoln Chafee, urging members of the board not to ignore local opposition to the proposal.

Cranston school leaders, teachers and city councilors have been speaking out against the new schools, saying they would have a negative affect on funding for district public schools.

Charter school proponents called the decision a loss for children and a win for special interest groups.

“The Board’s decision to deny the Achievement First application is an affront to the mayors who supported the school, the communities that need it and the children who deserve to get on the path to college,” said Mary-Ellen Butke of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now. “The opposition to the application came from a vocal minority and it is clear by today’s vote that their voices were heard above the many parents who wanted a high-performing school in their community.”

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says she was actually encouraged by the governor’s letter, which expresses support for charter schools as a tool to improve public education. And the proposal from Achievement First is not quite dead in the water.

Governor Chafee has pledged to visit Achievement First schools in Connecticut to find out more about them. He also tells the Board of Regents that he will direct the State Department of Education to explore a new proposal to bring Achievement First to Providence.

Chafee notes that Providence city and school officials support the plan, and he suggests that the new proposal include students from several communities including Providence, Cranston, Central Falls and Warwick, which would reduce the financial impact on any single school district.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2011 5:00 pm

    Perhaps you should ask them why Achievement First doesn’t open a “regular” charter in Providence. It would have been approved with no problem.

  2. Aly permalink
    September 2, 2011 6:49 pm

    What do you mean by “regular charter”? Not a mayoral academy? Not AF? Why would this be approved as opposed to the previous plan?

    • September 6, 2011 3:00 pm

      I mean a non-mayoral academy independent charter that would not require the participation (mandated equal enrollment) from a non-urban district. For example, every charter in RI that isn’t Blackstone Valley Prep. As far as I know, AFMA is the only charter that has been seriously challenged, and that is only because of the particular requirements of a mayoral academy.

      No other state has anything like our mayoral academies. Only in RI.

      • September 6, 2011 3:07 pm

        As I remember, there was a fight over Blackstone Valley Prep when it first opened (as Democracy Prep). I believe teachers unions protested the law creating mayoral academies, which is what allowed the school to open.

        One thing that has been interesting with Achievement First is that parents have become more involved in fighting against the school. With Democracy Prep/Blackstone Valley most of the parent voices were coming from the so-called education reform camp, which is very much in favor or mayoral academies.

  3. bill eccleston permalink
    September 2, 2011 7:51 pm

    “Cranston school leaders, teachers and city councilors have been speaking out against the proposal…”

    No “residents,” Ms Harrison? No significant number of Cranston residents—student parents, particularly, who have fought hard again and again, vainly, to prevent their excellent school system from being dismantled during the last half dozen years—have been speaking out against the proposal???

    That sentence is awful! This is your own personal bias intruding on what should be straightforward reporting. You might as well have Ms Butke write your copy for you.

    • September 6, 2011 2:39 pm

      Parents have spoken out both for and against Achievement First schools. I would refer you to my numerous posts as the debate has raged on, including this post from the day just before the vote:

      Here is another post detailing why some parents have objected to Achievement First and the Providence School Board’s decision to back the plan:

      I would also add that I have no horse in this fight. I have raised questions about Democracy Prep, now Blackstone Valley Prep, for not giving unstructured play time to young students. I have also noted that charter schools, including Achievement First and Blackstone Valley, have passionate supporters who believe they are offering an important alternative to other public schools. The purpose of this blog and all of my coverage is to represent a wide variety of viewpoints. You may not agree with all of them, but I thank you for following my coverage!

  4. Kiersten Marek permalink
    September 5, 2011 4:28 pm

    I do think you left out a very important voice here, which is the voice of the Cranston parent. Many of us are very involved and researched this issue assiduously to come to the conclusion that this plan was not right for us.

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