However, I prefer to fix problems where possible. And I think I’ve come up with a simple, universal solution to the McKeel issue that would apply to the magnet and other special schools as well.
According to the state Department of Education, 65 percent of Polk County’s students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. McKeel Elementary Academy, for instance, has a 19.8 percent free and reduced lunch percentage, down 5 percentage points from last year’s 24 percent. Lakeland Montessori, where my son goes to school, is even less poor, at 17 percent. However, we are talking about a tiny overall enrollment and a curriculum strategy not designed to mimic and destroy existing schools. The totality of McKeel Empire enrolls about 2600 kids. Lakeland Montessori enrolls a total of 88. (I don’t count the middle school, which is not part of the same organization.)
In any event, I propose that all “special” schools maintain a free and reduced lunch population no smaller than the district at large. Thus, if McKeel or Lakeland Montessori reach a free and reduced enrollment of 65 percent, they don’t get to let in any more affluent kids. When McKeel dumps a free or reduced kid, administrators would have to replace him or her with another free and reduced lunch-eligible child.
That might put some schools out of business, and I think I would consider an exemption for small charter/special schools with enrollments under 100, schools that do not pose systemic threats to public education generally. But I understand the argument against such an exemption as well.
In any event, my idea is completely consistent with the original intent of charter schools–which was to give less affluent kids access to new ideas and structures, not to wall-off rich kids and a few model tokens of the riff-raff from the dirty masses.
I don’t know the legalities of the School Board imposing such a rule districtwide. Charter law is a morass. But it could impose this rule for all the magnet schools tomorrow. And McKeel could announce at any time that it’s imposing this rule on itself.
McKeel, of course, will not do this. In part, that’s because its administration and faculty lack confidence in their abilities to educate any but the most spoon-fed of enrollments. They lack the honor and bravery to take the risk of performing “poorly”.
But mostly, McKeel won’t do it because the entirety of its appeal is the absence of its free and reduced lunch population. That’s what it sells. That’s what keeps Harold Maready highly paid. And we all know that money talks.
Prove me wrong, and I’ll stop pointing that out.In recent weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with people associated in one way or another with the McKeel Empire. And I hear that the school is now a bit concerned with how the community views it. I don’t think they’re terribly concerned about the morality of their practices, as such. But they do seem concerned about public perceptions. That’s progress.