Why You Should Oppose Charter Schools & Privatization
When Robb Bobb says “don’t waste a minute worrying about charter schools” its time to check your pockets. Bobb is a hatchet man who has made a career out of being the stranger from out of town brought in to force layoffs, cutbacks and privatization down the throats of cities all over the nation.
He was brought to Detroit for a single year by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Governor Granholm to smash through Detroiter’s unbending resistance to billionaire-run charter schools, vouchers, state takeovers, and all other attempts to undermine public education in Detroit, just as Bing was backed by the corporations to slash city services and public jobs.
What is their motivation? The corporations which have driven our economy into the ground, view America’s vast network of public schools as a potential cash cow of taxpayer money that they could profit from, if only they could get their hands on it through privatization. Since charter schools have been shown to perform more poorly than public schools, the advocates of privatization must deliberately and systematically degrade the public schools to make charters look better in comparison.
Secondly, in a shrinking economy, the corporations and their henchmen in government feel they must also shrink young people’s ambitions, lower their sights and narrow their vision. Though they sell it with fancy phrases, their real thinking is: why provide poor and working class youth a broad education that encourages critical, creative thinking when all they really need is basic literacy, numeracy, computer skills and constant drill in acquiescence to authority for a future as unskilled workers in the service sector, or, at best, skilled or semi-skilled technicians? Why provide counselors and AP classes if (according to their plan) few students are bound for a four-year college?
History of Charter Schools
These ideas are not new, nor are they innovative. In fact, they are a resurrection of a very old – and racist idea – the Hampton Model of industrial education. This model, put forward after the civil war as a way to pacify freed slaves who were clamouring for education, offered black southern children a second-class education that celebrated the dignity of hard labour, and compliant, patient behaviors in order to provide a reliable stream of cheap, submissive workers who would never protest or strike.
W.E.B Dubois strongly criticized this theory of education for black children because it denied them the wide breadth of knowledge and culture that would make them critical thinkers and true leaders of the nation and the world.Related to this goal, so-called reformers like Arne Duncan are seeking to weaken, if not bust the unions.
The teachers’ unions have historically been one of the most powerful forces in our society defending public education, fighting for smaller class size and demanding adequate resources for education, but they are being portrayed in the media as dinosaurs who are holding back progressive “reform”. But the real “reform” we need is books, supplies and smaller class size – not entrepreneurs who are looking to profit off our children.
Unfortunately, some of the teacher’s unions are being coopted into endorsing privatization by offers from Duncan to run charters themselves. We must fight this change in policy and demand that the teachers’ unions continue to stand strong against the destruction of public education.
The right of equal access to free, quality public education for students of every race, ethnic group, religion and national origin, regardless of citizenship, immigration status or family income level is a hard fought achievement of the union and civil rights movements, protected by state and federal constitutional provisions.
Only public schools are required to hire certified teachers, meet enforceable health and safety standards, guarantee basic free speech and due process rights to both students and teachers and provide appropriate educational services to special needs children.
Detroiters have a long, proud history of resisting oppression, and we can defeat this attack. We reject the corporations’ vision of our future. United mass action by students, teachers, and parents can beat Bobb and stop the destruction of our school.
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS
MYTH #1:There isn’t enough money to support good public schools
FACT:There is a large pot of federal stimulus money, called the Race to the Top Fund, to support financially struggling school districts. However, this fund is being used as a battering ram and blackmail to force districts to accept unpopular “reforms”, such as the introduction of charters, and the weakening of teacher contracts, that they would otherwise resist. Detroit is being told, there is money out there, but you will only get it if you accept the “reforms” that Robb Bobb wants to impose (such as bringing in four private charter companies to run the schools). If we organize and fight, we can get the money on our terms.
MYTH #2:Charter schools provide better education than district public schools
FACT: All reputable research, including the recent reports (2009) from the Center for Research Outcomes at Stanford University and The Education Policy Research Unit at the Arizona State University conclude that overall, charters perform worse, using the scale of standardized tests scores, than public schools in their same districts – particularly for African American students. These are longitudinal studies from dozens of American cities that have followed the progress of charters for over 10 years.
FACT: One of the four companies that Bobb has chosen to bring to Detroit – Edison Learning – has had contracts either completely or partially canceled by school districts in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Pontiac and Inkster due to poor performance, financial irregularities and unfulfilled promises.
KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), another darling of charter advocates, has faced repeated accusations by students and parents that KIPP teachers and principals use verbally and physically abusive and inhumane disciplinary methods in Chicago, Fresno and Fulton County, Georgia (the fact that complaints came from KIPP schools all over the nation makes clear that these are not simply cases of “a few rotten apples”.) These complaints became so numerous in Fresno, that the Fresno United Public School District, after carrying out a lengthy investigation, did not renew KIPP’s charter.
MYTH: #3 American public schools are in disarray, and must be reformed
FACT: It is true that public schools that serve poor, black, Latino and rural children often fail to provide quality education. But this is due to a chronic lack of resources. Rather than addressing this systematic starvation of urban and rural schools by providing more funds, all the so-called “school reformers” like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee in Washington DC want to replace experienced and – not coincidentally – unionized, veteran teachers and principals with inexperienced, non-certified, mostly white young teachers from programs like Teach for America who are willing to work long hours for little pay for a few years before they burn out and leave the profession.
The high staff turnover fails to build a cadre of highly qualified, experienced teachers and creates a very unstable environment for students.Studies show that all students make the greatest academic gains in schools that are both racially and economically integrated. Yet Governor Granholm refuses to use the authority she exercised to make Robb Bobb Dictator of DPS to instead force all the little, inefficient, segregated districts in SE Michigan consolidate into an integrated regional district. Granholm and Bobb are placating white racism at the expense of education.
MYTH #4: The competition of the ‘free market’ will force failing public schools to improve
FACT: It has been shown charter schools deny admission to special education and special needs students, by subtly discouraging parents, or simply stating that they lack the resources to provide for their needs.
So in the end, the introduction of charter schools siphons money away from the public schools while leaving the public schools with the most needy and costly children to educate. This obviously leaves the public schools at a great disadvantage, while simultaneously eroding the ability of special needs children to obtain an appropriate education.