Privatization and Reform, Charters
Arne Duncan never taught in a public school. He never attended public schools. He doesn’t know what it is like to be a teacher in a public school…and he knows nothing about teaching. How is it that this man is dictating to all the state departments of education how the public schools in their states should be run?
After all, what could be so hard? We’ve all been to school—most of us for at least 13 years—and we’ve watched teachers and administrators do their work. It just doesn’t seem that hard. Make sure the bells ring on time. Keep the kids quiet. Get some teachers who know the material…
…most leaders in the reform movement have never taught a five-period day, felt the joy of an unquantifiable classroom victory, lost instructional time to a standardized test, or been evaluated by a computer. And unlike the vulnerable students targeted by so much reform, most policy elites have not gone to school hungry, struggled to understand standard English, battled low expectations, or feared for their personal safety on the walk home.
Stephen Krashen’s article, The teacher shortage and how we treat teachers, hits the nail on the head when he gives explains why there’s a teacher shortage.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that there is a shortage of teachers because of “public education jobs lost” and an increase in school enrollment. At the same time, schools seem to be doing everything possible to get teachers to quit: removal of due-process, lack of seniority pay, the conversion of schools into test-prep centers, developmentally inappropriate and rigid standards, and the ongoing war on teachers in the media, including constant (and unjustified) proclamations about how bad American schools are because of mediocre teaching.
…from the article Krashen refers to…
…the number of teachers and related education staffers fell dramatically in the recession and has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with the expanding student population.
How many “reformers” actually know what it’s like being a teacher? How many “reformers” have any idea of the reality of a classroom from a teacher’s perspective?
Chiang herself only earns $36,000 a year. And if it weren’t for her husband, who earns a lot more as an engineer, she doesn’t know how she would make ends meet.
But her students help put things in perspective. Throughout her years teaching, she has helped students deal with homelessness or having a parent incarcerated. She has spent hundreds of dollars of her own money on school supplies and clothing for kids in need and has spent dozens of hours translating documents and letters into Spanish for students’ families who know little English.
Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America’s public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle class families.
Politicians and policy makers can’t solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students, when the problems don’t go away.
American schools are not failing…American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.
According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education, 1,258,182 students enrolled in public schools across the country were homeless in 2012-13. Of those, 75,940 were unaccompanied youths living on their own; 200,950 had disabilities. The total number of homeless students rose 8 percent from the previous school year and by nearly 500,000 since the 2007-08 school year, when there were 795,054 homeless students.
What’s should a school be? What is the purpose of school?
How do you define your life? Is it by your career alone, or is that just one aspect of who you are? Aren’t you also a friend, a consumer, a voter, and a family member? Is there more to education than just learning a trade or getting ready for a career?
A specter is haunting America – the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools…
Schools should not be about the making of profit or segregating poor and marginalized children. Schools should be about only one thing – teaching children, all children, no matter how poor they are or how poorly they test…
Charter schools’ discriminatory admissions policy is an affront to this moral vision of what a school should be about. A public school which would welcome only children who test well and turn away everyone else, would never be tolerated by the public, yet charter schools do this routinely, and the public is silent…
In Philadelphia, education reformers got everything they wanted. Look where the city’s schools are now.
Is this what “reformers” want? Is ‘the marketplace’ better than government run public schools? Apparently not…
…the basic structure of school financing in Philadelphia is rigged to benefit these privately managed companies. Public-school money follows students when they move to charter schools, but the public schools’ costs do not fall by the same amount. For example, if 100 students leave a district-run school at a cost of $8,596 per head (the district’s per-pupil expenditure minus certain administrative costs), that school’s cost for paying teachers, staff and building expenses doesn’t actually decline by that amount. It has been estimated that partly because of these costs, each student who enrolls in a charter school costs the district as much as $7,000.
There are outright subsidies too, including a loophole that provides charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment. Charters also appear to game the state’s special-education payment system to secure a larger share of district funds. In 2013, according to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, city charters obtained nearly $100 million more than they spent on special education.
An excellent survey of corporate reform…excerpted from Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America by Bob Herbert.
…if there is one broad approach (in addition to the importance of testing) that the corporate-style reformers and privatization advocates have united around, it’s the efficacy of charter schools. Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments.
Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.
None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype.
This would never happen if the children attending these schools were white and middle class. This is racism, and economic bigotry.
I think that the school board’s offices — and maybe that of the mayor as well, ought to be housed in the lowest performing public school in their district. Things would clean up fairly quickly if Rahm and his rubber stamps on the CPS Board had to make it through the day wading through cockroaches and without any toilet paper. Shame.
The Chicago Public School system has faced notorious budget cuts in recent years, and closed 49 schools in 2013. Recent money-saving moves to privatize management of custodial and cafeteria services have drawn the ire of parents and faculty, who have alleged schools are dirtier — and school lunches are worse — than ever.
A teacher at a high school on the city’s Southwest Side, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the district, described where he’s taught for the past eight years as “gross and disgusting.”
“We’re running out of toilet paper,” he said. “I’m seeing more bugs than ever before. There’s overflowing trash that sits for days and weeks in some cases.”
The teacher said his classroom has had a leaky ceiling that’s gone unfixed for two years, and roaches were recently spotted in a student locker room, causing students to avoid using the showers after phys ed class.
“It’s gross and disgusting and my health is being affected,” he said. “I want to be outside the minute I’m in here. It smells. Everything smells and I can’t focus. If I can’t focus to teach, how can kids focus to learn?”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board closed more than 50 schools because they were “underutilized.” In the process, thousands of children were displaced and hundreds of public school employees were “let go.” Then he turned around and opened new charter schools to deal with “overcrowding.”
…after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago’s charter schools actually underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways…
More charter fraud and corruption…
…negative accounts of K12 student outcomes led to the filing of at least one investor lawsuit against the company claiming that K12 intentionally misled investors about its academic quality when then-CEO Packard claimed, during an investor call, that test results at Agora were “significantly higher than a typical school on state administered tests for growth.” In fact, the most recent data on Agora students at that time showed them testing unfavorably compared to students statewide.
Charter school owners don’t want oversight…they want public tax money, but none of the public responsibility that accompanies it.
Charter school advocates didn’t like it recently when Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform issued a report calling for the strengthening of charter oversight and authorization. While noting that many charters work hard to “meet the needs of their students,” the report said that “the lack of effective oversight means too many cases of fraud and abuse, too little attention to equity, and no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence.” It provided some common-sense recommendations, including an innocuous call for the establishment of minimum qualifications for charter school treasurers. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, not surprisingly, bashed the report.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.