By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
On Monday, May 9, concerned parents and other citizens will gather to hear a panel discussion on “Options for Improving Public Schools.” It will be followed by a Q&A session.
Co-sponsored by the Edgemere PTA and VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement), the event will be held from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the David R. Lopez Community School at Edgemere Elementary, 3200 N. Walker, in Oklahoma City.
According to Darci Craghead, Edgemere PTA Treasurer, the question that is dominating the current conversation regarding Oklahoma City Public Schools is whether or not families will accept the expansion of charter schools within the OKC district as a way to improve schools.
“We believe the question should instead be – What are our options for improving the public schools?’’ said Craghead.
“The goal of this meeting is to provide information on other models and frameworks that can be implemented in public schools and avoid continuing down a path away from quality public education for every child,” Craghead added.
“It is also a place to hear information on the potential consequences of charter school expansion,” Craghead said.
Last March the Oklahoma City School Board voted to begin community conversations about charter school expansion.
Tim Willert of The Oklahoman reported that the school board voted 6-1 to adopt a resolution “to approve further exploration of ideas presented” by administrators from John Rex Charter Elementary School, KIPP Reach Academy and Santa Fe South Schools.
However, Willert reported further that several members urged the board not to abandon successful academic practices at schools in favor of charters, which are publicly funded but privately run.
“VOICE is not against charter schools,” said Sundra Flansburg, a leader with VOICE. “Oklahoma City has some outstanding ones, including Santa Fe South. We are very concerned though, about seeing an expansion of charter schools as the solution to challenges in our regular public schools.
“As community members and parents with children in the public schools, we want to lift up some of the successful schools we have right here in Oklahoma City,” Flansburg added. “
And let’s not forget that many of those challenges are occurring because we have been at the lowest rung of per child funding for our public schools for years – and we are falling off a funding cliff this year.
“What we hope to accomplish with this panel discussion is to shift the focus to how we ensure every child in Oklahoma City has the opportunity for a quality public education,” That’s what we believe Oklahoma City families care about,” Flansburg continued.
“We invite people to come and hear about public school options, how they could be expanded, and some facts on potential unintended impacts of a charter school expansion.”
Panelists will include Katy Leffel (Arts Integration Schools), Cherron Ukpaka (Learners First Schools), Paige Whalen (Community Schools), John Thompson (national charter school movement), and Heather Sparks (fully staffed public schools with certified teachers).
Edgemere PTA officer Lindsay Lange is a co-organizer of the event along with Craghead and Flansburg.
For more information, visit the Facebook event page or call 405-503-9944.