People need to learn that the “choice” in public education “reform” is a choice for the private school, not for communities, parents, or students. Private schools (both voucher supported as well as privately run with public funds charter schools) which use public money, can ensure that the students who attend their schools are the ones who will succeed. Students who are difficult or expensive to educate need not apply.
School choice disenfranchises the public.
Our public school system is set up to serve the public. All the public. It is not set up to serve just parents or just students. Everybody benefits from a system of roadways in this country– even people who don’t drive cars– because it allows a hundred other systems of service and commerce to function well.
School choice treats parents as if they are the only stakeholders in education. They are not. We all depend on a society in which people are reasonably well-educated. We all depend on a society in which people have a reasonably good understanding of how things work. We all depends on a society in which people have the basic abilities needed to take care of themselves and the people around them. We all depend on dealing with doctors and plumbers and lawyers and clerks and neighbors who can read and write and figure. We hope for fellow voters who will not elect a politician because he promises to convert straw to gold by using cold fusion. We all depend on a society that can move forward because it is composed of people who Know Things.
Another aspect of education “reform” are vouchers and charter schools, which politicians believe offer healthy competition to public schools, by offering “choice.” They use an all-American word like “choice” to disguise how they siphon off taxpayer public school money to organizations that are not accountable to the public for how they spend their money. So public school funding is shrinking and teachers are having to do more with less. In addition, teachers are being blamed and disempowered for the decline in America’s educational standing in the world. All of this contributes to teacher morale that is at an all-time low. Top veteran teachers are leaving the profession in droves to be replaced by poorly trained young teachers who will last a few years at best.
The evidence is by now substantial that charter schools in the “no excuses” category seek different applicants to their schools via complicated procedures prior to admissions lotteries, and once students enter they quickly seek to push out students who will not fully and promptly comply with their expectations.
Vouchers and charters were supposed to solve all the problems of public education. Just let private companies teach the children instead of the “public school monopoly” and magically all the low achievement will go away. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Not in Milwaukee…and not in Indiana.
The preponderance of credible research finds virtually no impact for vouchers in raising achievement above public school levels. So why are our legislators and governor forging ahead to expand vouchers when they currently take more than $15 million from public school funds and 95 percent of them go to sectarian schools?
I contend that it is primarily the ongoing effort to privatize as much of public education as can be gotten away with. Vouchers, along with private for-profit charter school groups now have access to public tax dollars. No less a person than Rupert Murdoch has referred to education as “a 500 billion dollar sector.” Any wonder that the corporate world has leapt into the “reform” movement? Any doubt that the primary function of voucher expansion is political?
FOLLOW THE MONEY
…political and economic. Alfie Kohn clearly explains the purpose behind education “reform.” Money.
Why do we need to have higher test scores…what is every speech by every politician and every business group saying the whole point of education is? Is it about building a thriving democracy? Never…is it about helping each child to reach his or her potential as a human being and a learner? No! It’s about corporate profits…every aspect of “school reform” makes perfect sense when you realize the purpose of “school reform” has to do with economics — not education and not child development.
THE FIGHT AGAINST CHARTERS
Private schools using public funds, like charter schools, don’t do a better job than public schools. The public is starting to notice.
…the word is out, and resistance to charter takeovers is stiffening in more places than York. In school systems such as Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, where charter schools are major providers, parents and local officials have increasingly opposed charter takeovers of their neighborhood schools. A recent poll in Michigan, where the majority of charter operations are for-profit, found that 73 percent of voters want a moratorium on opening any new charter schools until the state department of education and the state legislature conduct a full review of the charter school system.
LACK OF OVERSIGHT
Public schools systems are run by (mostly) elected school boards. The citizens give the board members the power to make sure that the money designated for the education of the community’s children is used for education of the community’s children…not to line the pockets of CEOs. Public money should be given to public schools not to private and religious schools through vouchers or to private corporations running charter schools.
Without close public oversight children lose. It’s our responsibility as the adults in our society to make sure that our children are given the opportunity they deserve. It’s our responsibility as the adults in our society to make sure that public schools are answerable to the public. We shouldn’t cede that responsibility to a corporate board.
The nonprofit running the schools is headed by CEO Dorothy Travis Moore and her daughter, Executive Director Wilnekia Brinson.
Both are paid six-figure compensation packages, according to their organization’s federal tax filings. Meanwhile, current and former employees have complained to the state and to the Journal Sentinel of lacking textbooks and other adequate classroom materials and resources to help children learn.
They also complained that Travis Moore has regularly employed teachers without bachelor’s degrees — the state requires teachers at voucher schools to have degrees — while employing family members with dubious job titles and responsibilities.
During the Christmas holidays, the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School in Philadelphia announced that it was closing, due to financial problems. The School Reform Commission had already initiated action to close it for poor academic performance. The Philadelphia school district said that the charter school had claimed $1.5 million more than it was entitled to, and the school could not find the money to repay the debt. Why is this kind of turmoil and instability called “reform”? [emphasis added]
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.