Question: What role should charter schools play in our system?
Tom Bloch: I think charter schools are a very, very important development in this country. I don’t wish to imply that they are a panacea, because there are good and there are bad charter schools. But I think for the first time in our nation’s history, in the urban core of most cities around the country, parents now have a choice of schools for their children. This is a very powerful concept for a parent to have the ability to be empowered to choose a school for their child gives them a great opportunity.
And the expression ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ is exactly what is happening, I think, in many urban areas around the country where charter schools are succeeding and what happens is they create a sense of competition in public education, and by creating this competition, parents will choose the best school for their kids, and government funding follows the child. So if a student transfers from a district school into a charter school, that state funding follows the kid to that new school. So, in other words, it puts a sense of pressure on all schools to do well so that they can compete successfully for students.
Question: How do KIPP schools fit?
Tom Bloch: I’ve heard wonderful things about the KIPP Schools [Knowledge Is Power Program Schools], and we now have a KIPP School in Kansas City, so it’s a charter school in our hometown. And I remember someone said to me, “Aren’t you a little concerned now, there is a KIPP School coming in to the market? Maybe they’re going to be so successful they’re going to compete and succeed in attracting some of your students to their school.” And my reaction was, “That’s great! This is what we need … we need better schools that are going to be formidable competitors, to us and others, because that will keep us on our toes. If there is a school down the street that’s doing a better job than we are, it tells me we better do something to improve our school.” So that, to me, is just exactly the kind of situation we need in every urban environment throughout our country.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008