Dear Governor McDonnell,
I got the news only a few days ago that you were holding a K-12 Education Reform Summit on Monday August 5th. I am disappointed by the "agenda" of the agenda and by the who's missing from the panels.
At the summit, are you mentioning that Virginia's public education system is ranked in the top ten? Are you discussing the fact that the teachers in our state are among the lowest paid in the country relative to our affluence? How about discussing reforms such as lowering class sizes, de-emphasizing high-stakes standardized testing and test-narrowed curricula in favor of more rich and varied curricula? What about classroom practice--is that being discussed? How about discussion of developing and retaining the great teachers we already have? What of the massive cuts to public education in this state? I don't see any of those items on the agenda. But I do see charters, privatization, disempowerment of local school boards, virtual education, and non-professional teachers--a reform agenda of ALEC's and one that most parents have said they reject.
And who is serving on the panels?
Well, first, let me applaud you on including two Virginia Superintendents and several Virginia college presidents. Also, kudos to you for including a former Virginia public school principal and someone who is both a former teacher and current state legislator (way to kill two birds with one stone!). I'm glad that some Virginia education scholars and leaders from Virginia's Department of Education will be there, too. Hopefully, these folks can bring knowledge and expertise to the discussion.You have also included many people and private interests from out of state, like the Governor of Tennessee, several charter school advocates, representatives from for-fee organizations that place non-professional and un-credentialed people in the classroom to work as teachers and administrators, as well as some consultants from the private education industry sector.
But you know who is not included on the panels? Most other Virginia K-12 education stakeholders. You have not included any current K-12 teachers or principals. I don't see any school counselors, school nurses, school social workers or school safety officers on the panels. There are no school board members or other local decision makers. Not one representative from a Virginia-based charter school will be there. Most glaringly, there is not one person there representing Virginia's families. Not one. There are no parents or parent representatives there, and there are no students.
I suppose those excluded stakeholders could go on their own and watch from the audience. But most working people can't afford to drive across the state on a weekday and then pay for lodging and the Summit fee. Why is this Summit not open and free to the public? Why is it not on a weekend? Public education is for the public and paid for by the taxpayers. Where are our representatives and the representatives of our co-stakeholders at your Education Reform Summit, Mr. Governor?