School founder says state charters are 'ready to grow'
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Published: 16-Apr-2010

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 16-Apr-2010

Freda Deskin, a leading Oklahoma educator and key player in the Oklahoma State Charter School Association, says the state is ready to move to the next level in supporting education reform.

During a legislative day for students from the ASTEC Charter High School she founded, Deskin reflected on the state’s progress since the days, a decade ago, when she was among the handful of educators with public school experience willing to involve themselves with the then-innovative concept of charter schools, public institutions freed from many of the bureaucratic strictures binding other schools funded by government.

Deskin spoke with CapitolBeatOK and other reporters at a press conference organized by entrepreneur Terry Neese and the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) this week at the state Capitol.

In response to a question from CapitolBeatOK, Deskin said, “ASTEC was the first charter school to start from scratch and not to emerge from a previously existing school. I certainly feel Oklahoma is ready to do better in the charter school area. It’s an important aspect even in funding due to the things the U.S. Department of Education wants to see for ‘Race to the Top’ funding.”

As Deskin observed, “Charters get less money per student than other public schools, but do a good job. In the economic situation we’re in that might be an argument for the work we do at schools like ASTEC and the other charter schools.

“Oklahoma is absolutely ready for the step the Legislature is taking. We’ll join the other states, including those that have been more robust in growing charters, in improving education.”

The state House has approved a proposal to accelerate charter school reforms.

Wide bipartisan support exists to pass the measure, Senate Bill 1862, co-sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee and Speaker Chris Benge, with state Rep. Lee Denney. Their measure, if approved, would significantly expand options for charter school advocates.

Deskin was one of 15 women entrepreneurs who spent a day at the state Capitol working with legislators as mentors to young women from ASTEC Charter High School.

The ASTEC curriculum focuses on integrating science and technology with the liberal arts. Deskin and her staff are developing new entrepreneurial classes for the fall 2010 semester.

“One of the core values we try to instill in our students is the importance of responsible citizenship,” said Dr. Freda Deskin, founder and CEO of ASTEC. “We feel that it is vital our students have a chance to discover and participate in the evolving world around them. They are our future leaders.”

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