Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brokering the Grand Bargain

Our report, Better Together: Ensuring Quality District Schools in Times of Charter Growth and Declining Enrollment, takes an honest look at an urgent problem that has long divided education leaders. To help inform and advance a thoughtful discussion, we invited a number of experts to share their views on this complex and politically charged issue.

CRPE’s recent paper, Better Together, leaves no doubt that the current stalemate between traditional public school districts and public charter schools will in the long-run only hurt the students, teachers, and families they serve. The well-reasoned recommendation of a grand bargain, the likes of which we haven’t yet seen anywhere, is going to require an end to political posturing and an unwavering commitment to working toward solutions. It may also require the creation of incentives—policy or financial—for the sectors to come together. To create the necessary space to have this conversation, and to identify the incentives needed to ensure the conversation leads to deal making, leaders from outside the system will need to play a role.

Mayors, civic leaders, nonprofit education quarterbacks like Education Cities members, and local funders can and should seek to help broker these conversations, and help bring about a grand bargain.

As the gathering that inspired CRPE’s paper proved, dialogue has to be the first step. But if we’re going to put significant structural change on the table, everyone needs to be prepared to give up something, and sometimes that’s easier to find and accept with a little help from the outside.

Simply put, without a fundamental shift in incentives—the kind of shift outside influences like policy change or money can bring about—we shouldn’t hold our breath that the two sectors will find their way to a meaningful detente or, dare we hope, partnership.

Ethan Gray is the Founder and CEO of Education Cities, a national nonprofit that supports and advises city-based education organizations on their efforts to grow great public schools.

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