Who was invited to last week’s WV Department of Education meeting on charter schools?
In a front-page article in today’s Wheeling Intelligencer, reporter Joselyn King tells us about a state meeting held last Wednesday in Parkersburg:
“WVDOE Starts Charter School Policy Discussions
The West Virginia Department of Education invited about a dozen educators last week to a gathering in Parkersburg, where each had the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about charter schools.
Who wasn’t invited to the meeting?
King doesn’t tell us in her report, but she apparently was not at the meeting. It was a closed meeting; neither the public nor the public’s representative, the media, were invited. Why not? On Sunday, the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Ryan Quinn wrote about the meeting. Before reporting what some of the participants said, Quinn explained why he was not there:
Deputy state Schools Superintendent Clayton Burch, the education department’s No. 2 official, said the Gazette-Mail wasn’t allowed into the meeting at Parkersburg’s Blennerhassett Hotel.
“It’s not a public meeting,” Burch said.
When asked how many county superintendents would be there, he said, “doesn’t matter, it’s our meeting, bud, it’s not an open thing.”
Burch and county schools superintendents’ annual salaries all exceed $100,000 each, so the combined, publicly funded yearly salaries of the attendees easily exceeded half a million dollars.
Yes, public money but no accountability.
Apparently, the participants discussed policy for charter schools. Wasn’t this a conflict of interest for at least one participant?
From the two articles, it appears that there were a couple of county superintendents and at least two school board members among the dozen or so in attendance. A local Ohio County Board of Education member, Sarah Koegler, was one of the school board members present. The Intelligencer has previously identified Koegler as “managing director and human resources business partner at Teach For America.” If you are unfamiliar with Teach for America, Pro Publica did an excellent investigative piece earlier this summer detailing how the organization, founded on improving inner-city schools, has become part of the charter school movement:
How Teach for America Evolved Into an Arm of the Charter School Movement
Pro Publica explains:
Established nearly 30 years ago to tap idealistic graduates of elite universities to teach at traditional public schools in high-poverty areas, Teach For America has evolved into an informal but vital ally of the charter school movement. Not only does it place a disproportionate number of its teachers in charter schools, but the organization and its affiliated groups also have become reliant on the support of the Walton Foundation and other school choice advocates, including a daughter of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor.
And so we have a participant with clearly something to gain and yet we have no transparency or accountability. I’ll ask again: if charter schools are such a good thing for West Virginia, why is everything done behind closed doors?