Anyone submitting an application for a charter school to the charter school commission is bound and determined to show that they are filling a need. And it is the duty of the commission to determine if this need really exists–not just rubber stamp any application thrown in front of them as this commission had demonstrated it is willing to do.
This requires homework. Again something the charter commission seems allergic to.
The Woodland Prep charter application in Washington County being case in point. They should look at every sentence, paragraph and number in the application and figure out if they are honest and believable and backed by reliable sources. And when something doesn’t make common sense, it should be questioned.
It’s difficult work. Which is why the charter commission hired the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to review applications and paid them $113,000 over the course of a couple of years.
One of the first considerations of the commission should be a careful look at the area wanting a charter. Since any charter will take money and students away from existing public schools, the commission has to decide if the charter is going into an area or growth, or one of decline. After all, how much sense does it make to put another school where the “market” for students is shrinking. Given that enrollment in 93 of the state’s 137 school system has declined in the last decade, this determination is critical.
In the last 10 years Washington County public school enrollment has dropped from 3,487 to 2,650–a decrease of 31.5 percent. Naturally charter supporters claim this is proof public schools are failing and people are sending their children to other schools. In fact, they have repeatedly said that 900 children leave Washington County each day to go to schools in other places. But as we pointed out before, this number can not be verified and must be considered bogus.
So what about this? Maybe the outmigration of mothers has more to do with falling enrollment than anything else.
And that is exactly what is happening. There were 2,459 females between the ages of 20-39 in Washington County in 1980 according to census data. These are the ages when most mothers give birth. And 30 years later, in 2010, this number was only 1,979–a drop of 19.4 percent. Of course, this does not fit the narrative Woodland Prep supporters are pushing.
It is not the role of the charter commission to look the other way when an application does not meet muster. Their role is to ensure that Alabama taxpayers get value for their dollars and not buy tickets for the Titanic. They should have enough common sense to check census information in cases like this.
Unfortunately, as we have seen repeatedly with Woodland Prep, this is not the way this commission, appointed by various politicians, goes about their job. Why look up census numbers if they don’t have to? Which is why the good folks of Washington County will tell you the way this commission does business is a travesty.