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In whose interest is it to promote charter schools?

Note: below is just part of a larger piece. To read the whole thing follow the link at the bottom of the page. -RPG

From the Art of Teaching Science, by Jack Hassard

In Whose Interest?

In whose interest is it to promote charter schools? Unfortunately it is not the parents or students who attend these schools. Many parents are seduced into thinking that charter schools are a real choice for them, when in fact, beneath the surface are charter management companies, investors, real estate developers, and wealthy businessmen who have ordained themselves as saviors of public education. Their plan is to privatize schools, and regulate the teaching profession by eliminating real teacher education, and in its place use the boot camp mentality of Teach for America.

The concept of a charter school was an innovative idea when it wasformulated historically(in the late 1980s by theAmerican Federation of Teachers!). Albert Shanker, head of the AFT, proposed the idea of charters, andRichard Kahlenbergrecounts its origins:

InShanker’s vision, small groups of teachers and parents would submit research-based proposals outlining plans to educate kids in innovative ways. A panel consisting of the local school board and teachers’ union officials would review proposals. Once given a “charter,” a term first used by the Massachusetts educator Ray Budde, a school would be left alone for a period of five to 10 years. Schools would be freed from certain collective bargaining provisions; for example, class-size limitations might be waived to merge two classes and allow team-teaching. Shanker’s core notion was to tap into teacher expertise to try new things. Building on the practices at the Saturn auto plant in Nashville, Tenn., he envisioned teams of teachers making suggestions on how best to accomplish the job at hand. Part of the appeal of charter schools to Shanker and many Democrats was that they offered a publicly run alternative to private-school-voucher proposals, which they feared would undermine teacher collective bargaining rights and Balkanize students by race, religion, and economic status.

As Lisa Delpit reminds us, the first iteration of charter schools were to be beacons of what public schools could do. Teachers were at the center of charter schools, and they would collaborate to design new models of teaching for the most challenging populations. Dr. Delpit, in her recently published book,Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children, says charter schools:

They were intended to develop models for working with the most challenging populations. What they discovered was to be shared and reproduced in other public school classrooms. Now, because of the insertion of the “market model,” charter schools often shun the very students they were intended to help. Special education students, students with behavioral issues, and students who need any kind of special assistance are excluded in a multiplicity of ways because they reduce the bottom line—they lower test scores and take more time to educate properly. Charter schools have any number of ways of “counseling” such students out of their programs.

Delpit, Lisa (2012-03-20). “Multiplication Is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The charter school movement is a dangerous path for us to follow. Although charter schools are public, and use tax payer funds, they resemble private schooling in the sense that they are not accountable in the same ways that public schools are evaluated. Charter schools have boards that are not elected, and often the managing organization is an out-of-state enterprise that swoops in and sets up shop.

As Dr. Delpit puts it, public schools, that were once the beacon of democracy, have been overrun by the antidemocratic forces of extreme wealth. Educational policy for the past decade has largely been determined by the financial contributions of several very large corporate foundations. Among a few others, the Broad, Gates, and Walton (Walmart) foundations have dictated various “reforms” by flooding the educational enterprise with capital. The ideas of privatization, charter schools, Teach for America, the extremes of the accountability movement, merit pay, increased standardized testing, free market competition—all are promulgated and financially supported by corporate foundations, which indeed have those funds because they can avoid paying the taxes that the rest of us must foot. Thus, educational policy has been virtually hijacked by the wealthiest citizens, whom no one elected and who are unlikely ever to have had a child in the public schools.

Delpit, Lisa (2012-03-20). “Multiplication Is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The charter school movement is in the interests of the foundation listed above, and charter management organizations that control much of the charter school market.

Choosing a charter school for your student is not the same as choosing a glass of milk for your daughter or son. It’s more like making a wrong turn into a dead-end street.

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