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Bristol Lions Learn About Public School Choice 11/19/2010

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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Public school education in the state of Maine needs more choice, according to Dr. Judith Jones, executive director of the Maine Association for Charter Schools. In a recent presentation to the Bristol Area Lions Club, Jones explained that charter schools could very well offer that choice. They operate like a business, with contracts that are renewed only if their students are succeeding. Already legal in 40 states, the charter school concept needs only the proper legislation voted in to make this public school option available in Maine. By contract, a charter school must meet educational goals, attract enough students to sustain their program, and manage its funds well. The bottom line is accountability and with a current 20% dropout rate in the state’s public schools, Jones emphasizes that the time is right to offer an affordable choice to parents seeking the best possible public education for their children.

Dr. Jones is no stranger to the charter school concept, having fostered such programs in Washington, D.C. and in New Jersey before moving to Maine. A sociologist by training, for the last 15 years she has worked with 40 potential charter school organizers in the state and remarks about the growing enthusiasm to offer such a program. Federal grants are available to help launch charter schools in the community, and the focus and governance of each charter school
would vary with the interests of each school’s adult organizers. Free to families of all income levels, funding would derive from the per pupil allocation each town already spends on the public education of its children.

Accompanying Judith Jones was charter school community coordinator Dorothy Havey, whose own children attended the nationally regarded Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, Maine. The only magnet school in the state, MSSM is very selective about the students it accepts, unlike a charter school where no student is turned away unless the school is oversubscribed. The idea of giving parents and their children a choice in secondary education, in the form of a magnet school or special interest charter school, has been shown to motivate and incentivize students to succeed.

The Bristol Area Lions Club will meet next on Monday, December 6, when Paul Kando of the Midcoast Green Collaborative will make a presentation on weatherization and energy efficiency. To make dinner reservations for that meeting, please call 677-2095, and to learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, contact Andy Noyes at 677-2213.


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