Board of Education AL-9 candidates Jason Esteves and Lori James provided answers to the Atlanta Progressive News questionnaire. Esteves received 34.3% and James received 30.7% of the votes to qualify for the run-off election that will be held on December 3rd. The answers to the entire questionnaire can be found here.
Overall, the answers provided by the candidates are consistent with the answers they have been providing on the campaign trail over the last couple of months.
On their overall position on public charter schools, the candidates responded (excerpts),
ESTEVES: I support good public schools regardless of whether they are traditional or charter schools… the next school board has the opportunity to ensure our traditional schools become just as successful as our most successful charter schools by … attracting great teachers and principals, mobilizing parents and the community, supporting those stakeholders, and encouraging them to work together in the best interests of our children.
JAMES: I believe that there are great schools, both traditional, charter and private… Charter schools were originally conceived as innovative public schools, free from the bureaucracy of school districts and designed to nurture new effective educational models.… we need to implement current policies that allow current schools to eliminate some of the restrictions and bureaucracy that stifle creativity, independence, and local school control.
When asked if they had “any concerns about charter schools”, they responded (excerpts),
ESTEVES: I want to ensure that all of our public schools, including charter schools, are serving a broad spectrum of socioeconomic and special needs students. … Our task as a Board will be to study the best practices of our most successful public schools and work to apply them to the traditional schools that are not giving students a great public school education.
JAMES: Yes my concerns have to do with: 1. The provision of services for students who have special needs, or other instructional, medical or behavioral concerns….2. Charter schools living up to the original concept of a charter school.
APN also asked if there were any circumstance that would lead the candidate to vote against a public charter school application. The candidates responded (responses in their entirety),
ESTEVES: There are three red flags that would disqualify any charter application. I would not vote for a charter school application (1) where the application does not satisfy the requirements of the Office of Innovation; (2) where the parents in the surrounding neighborhood do not support the proposed school; or (3) where the proposed school does not offer parents in the surrounding neighborhood anything different from what APS currently offers.
JAMES: One circumstance that I would vote against a charter school would be if it did not meet the requirements, described and documented, by APS policy. I would have to look at other charter school applications on a case-by-case basis, paying attention to issues such as: the overall desire of the community; whether the school is able to provide services stated; whether it will meet the needs of the community/students; and the enrollment criteria.
Overall, my sense is that both candidates are comfortable with the public charter school approval process followed by APS and they would continue to rely on it. Additionally, both candidates acknowledge that there are lessons to be learned from good public charter schools and that these lessons should be applied to the traditional schools.
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