The loony-toons Seattle School Board justifies its opposition to charter schools with the claim that charter schools "lack accountability". As I pointed out earlier, while most people would define accountability as the understanding that "one must do a good job or face certain consequences", the Seattle School Board members (like most people in the world of public education) seem to define accountability for school employees as "permission to fail without consequences"
Here's yet another example of public school "accountability" at work. As we learned a couple of weeks ago, the drinking water at Seattle's Wedgwood Elementary School has been believed for years to be contaminated . Nevertheless, the School District's director of facilities, John Vacchiery, declared that:
While "there's no question" Wedgwood's water isn't aesthetically pleasing, it's perfectly safe to drinkSome Wedgwood parents paid to have the school's water independently tested and discovered:
lead levels exceeding EPA limits of 20 parts per billion (ppb), and one of the four [drinking fountains] had cadmium levels higher than the 5 ppb EPA limit. One drinking fountain, located in a classroom, had lead levels 10 times over the limit.Vacchiery now says that
there have been numerous facilities directors at the district since the early 1990s, he said, and he's trying to determine at which schools repairs were done.and
After 1993, there was a plan in place to flush water fountains on a regular basis to reduce lead levels, but Vacchiery said he didn't know whether that plan was followed rigorously. Drinking fountains were replaced in many buildings, he said, but repairs "weren't systematic."Of course the repairs weren't systematic, because nobody in the public school system is ever really accountable (in the normal sense of the word) for doing their jobs properly. I think it's reasonable to predict that not a single school employee will face any sort of real-world consequences for having allowed poisonous water in the schools for a decade or longer.
At least the new School Board has taken emergency action to correct the water problem. The Seattle Times' Sanjay Bhatt inappropriately editorializes in today's news report that:
The emergency action is the first concrete example that newly elected board members are delivering on campaign promises to be responsive to community concerns.Fine, but the fact remains that it took years of complaints about the school's water and newspaper articles to elevate the problem to School Board's attention before the problem could fixed. This sort of issue shouldn't require the School Board's intervention in the first place.
Of course, if a charter school had similar problems, parents could pressure the school administrators and expect prompt action on the threat that the parents would take their kids and their funding elsewhere. The Stalinist monopoly school system that the Seattle School Board wants to protect offers no such recourse.
[I should point out that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Deborah Bach reported on the School Board's opposition to charter schools, while the Times did not. Bach's report on the water problem did not have any of Bhatt's needless editorializing. Advantage: Bach and the P-I!].Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at December 19, 2003 12:10 PM