Status quo not an option

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

Education is about choice.

One can choose to make the most of an educational opportunity or squander it. One can choose the educational path to pursue.

Choice is what Peoria parents should have in schools, which is exactly why the District 150 school board did the right thing earlier this month by voting to move forward with a charter school.

The deal is not done, but Peoria is closer to a charter school being a reality.

Board member Mary Spangler hit the real issue in this discussion when she said, “We need choice. We need to show people we have choice. Some people may choose to come back or give it a try.”

It is all about choice.

President Obama recognized that when, earlier this year, he said, America will not be true to its highest ideals until we do a “far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters, unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world.”

The skills needed, but lacking, are in the areas of math, science and technology. These three areas are exactly where the proposed Peoria charter school would focus.

It is hard not to pay attention when a Caterpillar executive says the company needs skilled workers.

Will Ball, the manager of Caterpillar’s social initiatives division, said, “Exciting things are happening in Peoria,” Ball said. “To sustain growth, we have work to do. We need to ensure we have a diverse workforce skilled in math and technology.”

He added, the graduates will ensure Caterpillar has a “pipeline of future talent.”

That is an important consideration.

Terry Knapp, a former District 150 teacher and former president of the Peoria Federation of Teachers, can find nothing to support in the concept. 

“You will find people teaching in that school who are friends of friends. It will be a good old boys club,” Knapp said. “This is a classic union-busting tactic. I can’t just walk into Mr. Bryant’s hospital (Methodist Medical Center) and get a job as a certified nurses aide. I’d have to have training.”   

Knapp is a man whose opinions and views merit respect. He is a tireless advocate for quality education in Peoria, and for union representation.

But, all we have heard from Knapp is what is wrong with the idea.

People want choice. They want change. If Knapp has ideas on how to provide both, while protecting union jobs within a framework that does not tax property owners to the verge of outright fear, all of Peoria should be ready to listen.

Until that day comes, Peorians are going to be willing to grasp at ideas that offer choice and change. The charter school concept offers that.

It is not perfect. But, it is also not static.

The opposition needs to come forward with a better idea or jump onboard. Clinging to the status quo is not a viable option.