I believe Arizona’s charter schools are one of the state’s great success stories. Test scores suggest as much as do national and state rankings.
I am a conservative Republican. I believe in school choice and the help it can provide parents and students. I am also a strong believer in the free market and capitalism.
I am the owner of Benjamin Franklin Charter School. In existence for over 20 years, we provide an excellent education for over 3,000 students with a 96% graduation rate.
I am a state legislator. I often take strong stands on issues. No matter whether one agrees or disagrees with me, I think most, if not all, would say I serve the public with great integrity. I sure try to.
That’s why I must take issue with recent articles and columns by the Arizona Republic. I understand that some do not like charter schools, including The Republic. But, the marketplace does as enrollment in them continues to expand. Challenging my integrity and those of our schools is a bridge too far for me not to respond. I appreciate the chance to do so and may surprise a few readers with what I feel are important next steps.
Notwithstanding my disagreements with the Republic story, any organization or person should be open to improvement, or addressing concerns. Though I have no authority to expand the non-profit board, it is my understanding that they have been exploring the option of expanding its membership with individuals from the business or education worlds.
Also, because so much concern has been expressed regarding charter school operators legally making a profit from contracts with the state, I am happy to work with anyone, including my friends from both sides of the aisle in January for a comprehensive look and potential legislation, not just for charter school operations, but also for any private sector business contracting with the state. Freeways. Higher education. Health care. Numerous abuses in the K-12 education arena such as in Scottsdale. How much are people making at this intersection? Is it too much or not enough? What are the consequences of curtailing profit, or expanding it? If we think making a profit from providing quality products or services is bad, then we should review all private state contractors. Not just charter schools.
Let’s not be afraid of that discussion. Let’s have it, retaining laws and practices where we should and reforming where we must. In the meantime, I will continue to operate our schools with the utmost integrity and commitment to academic excellence.
If you would like to read more about Arizona Charter Schools and what is going on during this transition, please take a look at Robert Robb's article in the Arizona Republic, "If an Arizona charter school makes big bucks on education, why is that a scandal?".