State Board Candidates Marcia Neal, Jill Brake Discuss Choice, Innovation

Last week, I introduced you to two candidates for Colorado’s State Board of Education from the 3rd Congressional District – Democrat Jill Brake and Republican Marcia Neal – but had to close with an important question about them:

I know I can sound like a broken record at times, but wouldn’t it be good to know where Ms. Brake and Ms. Neal stand on school choice (e.g., charter schools, online schools, open enrollment)? What about expanding local innovation? The students and parents of Colorado – especially those trapped in failing schools – deserve to know.

So my friends in the Education Policy Center went back and did a little research, and followed up with emails to each of the candidates to give them a fair chance to explain themselves on where they stand on school choice and local innovation.

First, from Marcia Neal’s website on “choice”:

This becomes of greater and greater importance, both in allowing parents to make the choice for their children’s education and, perhaps, even more importantly to provide the needed driving force to bring about true education reform.

And on the innovation issue from her “Education That Works” section:

We must look at new schedules and calendars, new ways to group grades, new partnerships with business and higher ed, career orientated rigorous and relevant opportunities. We must be innovative and offer parents and children chances and choices that will meet the needs of all.

Do we need the intermidable [sic] studies which eat up time we do not have? It’s actually part of the problem as school personnel look at any new innovation as “just the latest fad.” For there are programs that work, many of them pretty spectacularly. I have amassed a thick file of them. They are, for the most part charter or private/religious programs that call for higher standards and expectations and innovative ways to deliver curriculum. Is there any reason we cannot find ways to create these or similar programs in public school? I think not!

Neal also cites West Denver Prep and Dolores Huerta Prep (Pueblo) as successful public charter school models of innovation.

Jill Brake’s website didn’t answer the questions directly, but she was kind enough to elaborate in an email message:

I was a President of a K-8 Core Knowledge Charter school for the last 3 years and served as their president. I believe in Charters and believe they give parents a choice. There are 4,300 Charter schools today. I believe it is important to have them chartered through the local school board who are held accountable to the taxpayers. Charters is a public school choice. Charters most often take alternative approaches to curricular, have aggressive academic goals, smaller class sizes and more parental involvement which is something the public schools have yet to achieve. Charters still fail just like our other schools and many wrestle with money and board oversight too. I agree and believe the open school enrollment is working in Colorado and giving parents another avenue for choice. On-line is up and coming and will prove to expand over the next few years dramatically. On-line should be governed by elected board either local or at the state. They should adhere to standards in curriculum content, academic achievement and test disclosure. I have a 15 year old son taking some on-line classes now and he feels that they are very beneficial. The State Board of Education should establish governance and accountability standards, and develop accountability measures and guidelines for these programs.

I hope we never lose the innovation factor and continue to look for ways to transform our public education system that serves as the corner stone of our democracy!

I will let the candidates speak for themselves on these issues, but appreciate the comments of readers, especially those living in the 3rd Congressional District (shaded area in map below):

Thanks again to Marcia Neal and Jill Brake for taking the time to share their responses!