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WV Senate Ed. chair may have plagiarized pro-charter school commentary

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By Ryan Quinn, Charleston Gazette-Mail

A newspaper commentary authored by the state Senate Education Committee chairwoman contains a passage that is nearly identical to a post found on a pro-charter school website.

Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, on Thursday denied copying the passage.

“If it’s similar that’s pretty amazing,” she said. “It is an incredible coincidence.”

 

Rucker’s commentary was published in Thursday’s Register-Herald. It was also sent Wednesday to the Gazette-Mail, which hasn’t published it. It included this:

“For example, the community of Tidioute, Penn. — with a population of only 654 — had success in establishing a charter school when the district proposed closing its school as a part of a consolidation. Because of their remote geography, distance from other communities and the icy conditions they face in winter, the community members felt it was important to have a school located within Tidioute. Their charter school capitalizes on their tight-knit community and local resources to offer students place-based education and a family-like culture.”

A March 15 blog post by Laura Gelles on the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive Policy Institute’s website said this:

“For example, the community of Tidioute, PA, with a population of only 654 had success in establishing a charter school when the district proposed closing its school as a part of a consolidation. Because of their remote geography, distance from other communities, and the icy conditions they face in winter, the community members felt it was important to have a school located within Tidioute. Their charter school capitalizes on their tight-knit community and local natural resources to offer their students place-based education and a family-like culture.”

Those sections differ only in some punctuation, and that Gelles, at the end, has the word “natural” between “local” and “resources,” and the word “their” between “offer” and “students.”

A teacher who wished to remain anonymous made the discovery.

“I wasn’t looking at their article when I was writing mine,” Rucker said, though she did say she had read it.

“I did not copy it from them, no,” she said. “I didn’t intend to copy it from them.”

Another section of Rucker’s commentary seemed to match the Charter School FAQ on the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website, but not as precisely. Her column said:

“Each school is unique — both inside and out. Some may focus on college preparation, some follow a Montessori curriculum and others integrate the arts into each subject. The possibilities are endless, meaning that charter schools can provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child.”

The website of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which has had lobbyists pushing for charter schools locally, says:

“Each of the more than 7,000 charter schools is unique – both inside and out. Some may focus on college prep, some follow a Montessori curriculum, and others integrate the arts into each subject. Most charter schools are located in urban areas, but there are charter schools in suburban and rural areas as well. Some charter schools require uniforms, others have longer school days, and some teach their entire curriculum in two languages. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child.”

Rucker previously worked as an uncertified, part-time substitute teacher in Maryland. She has home-schooled her five children.

She said the definition of charter schools is similar among multiple sites.

“I do read a lot and, again, if it’s similar to something someone else has written, it wasn’t copied word-for-word,” she said. “I wasn’t copying when I wrote this.”

She said, “I did have sources that I cited in my op-ed, and if I missed one, I absolutely apologize for it.”

Rucker’s familiar language comes ahead of a planned special legislative session on education in which she and other Republican leaders have said they’re going to push legalizing charter schools.

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