Editorial board members sat down Thursday with former California legislator and education secretary Gary K. Hart, who authored the state’s original charter school law in 1992, to discuss how the charter movement has changed and what challenges and opportunities remain.
Hart represented Santa Barbara and Ventura counties before later serving as education secretary for two years under Gov. Gray Davis. He is currently co-director of the California State University Institute for Education Reform at Sacramento State.
“I’ve always felt that a lot of schools were missing the mark” and settling for “business as usual,” Hart said at Chapman University. He related how a teacher told him he had been at his job for 30 years and not much had changed.
Hart got a spark to inspire some change after hearing Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, rival union of the National Education Association. Shanker had been talking about charter schools since 1988 as a means of allowing for greater experimentation and empowering teachers, rather than administrators, to have more freedom and input on instructional techniques, particularly for disadvantaged students. That experimentation was crucial, even if some ultimately failed.