Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm Still Trying To Persuade You

I've written a couple of posts in the last couple weeks (here and here) about how the concept of charter schools has evolved into a vehicle for Wall Street backed corporations to take-over education and get rich off the labor of our nation's public school children. When I write about the corporate-style education "reform" movement, most readers here seem to agree that we need to push back against the scourge of high stakes standardization testing, the factory-ization of curricula, and the efforts to bust unions and de-professionalize teaching, but when it comes to charters, the end-game in their quest to fully privatize public education, there are still many of you who rally in support of charter schools.

I get it. There are still some good ones out there from what I hear: your children are enrolled in them, thriving in them, happy in them. Why wouldn't you choose that, especially when it seems that the traditional public school options aren't up to your standards in this day of budget cuts and teacher shortages. And that's part of the program: to systematically undermine traditional public schools both in the public mind through "shock doctrine" marketing techniques and fiscally by making our schools bear the brunt of budget austerity while siphoning off school funds into charter schools that have very little democratic oversight. But I do get it. As one reader recently put it: "Even if I agree that charters are bad overall, I'm not going to put my child in a failing public school just to make a political point." I can argue that everything about public education is political (e.g., school desegregation in the 1960's), but I get it.

This doesn't mean that the corporate take-over isn't happening nor that I'm going to stop trying to persuade you that it is a danger. In some cases it's already happened, with entire school districts being run by private corporations leaving parents and the community with very little say in the education of their children. And while there remain some good charters out there today, it's highly unlikely they will survive as havens for future generations unless we succeed in pushing back against the "reformers."

I can see that part of how I can contribute to that effort is to continue to try to persuade my readers who are not already on board that privatization is every bit as dangerous to our children as high stakes standardized testing. So along those lines, I'm going to share with you a recent bit on the corrupt nature of many of our charter schools from John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight. I tend to agree with those who say that some of the best journalism today is being done by comedians (maybe that's always been true!). 

I should warn you about language before you click play . . .

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1 comment:

Les said...

Hi Tom,

I love John Oliver, I strongly support the responsibility that society has to provide opportunities for a quality education to all children, and I don't support the conventional education models of most charter schools, but there is simply no evidence that charter schools are more susceptible to corruption than public schools.

Charter schools, like public schools, are only as good or bad as the people running them. There are public schools all over the country (especially in Detroit, lately) where administrators have stolen funds. There are greedy, dishonest people who work in the public sector, just as there are greedy, dishonest people who work in the private sector.

The fact that bad charter schools occasionally close suddenly, leaving kids temporarily without a school, is every bit as much the fault of the public school district overseeing them and the contracts they signed.

Issues of poor school funding and management (the U.S. spends more per pupil than all but two or three countries, and some of the worst schools in the U.S. spend the most per pupil) aren't the fault of charter schools, which generally spend less per pupil. I've no doubt that not hiring union teachers is responsible for some of that, but while I support the rights of teachers to organize, I have not seen quality of education increase as the power of teacher unions has increased. I've not seen the quality of education increase as per pupil spending has increased by an inflation adjusted factor of 3 in the last 40 years.

Also, I'm confused by your concern that privatized school districts have left "parents and the community with very little say in the education of their children." If that's the case, how is it different when the schools were run by the school district? The reason so many people want to win the lottery to be in a local charter is precisely because they've never had any say in the education of the their children.

Rich people have always had choices as to where their kids go to school. I think poor people deserve educational choices as well. I think a system that denies poor people educational choices is neither compassionate nor liberal. And, as a good liberal, I'm pro-choice in all things. :)

Most importantly, the idea that the people who run and work for charters are against public schools in general is, in my opinion, every bit as based in fact as the claim on the right that public schools want to decrease the rights and influence of parents over their children. It's an ideological argument, not a practical one. Just as is the assertion that private organizations are somehow intrinsically less humane than public ones.

Are there some charter proponents who want to make all education private? Sure. Are there some public school supporters who want to make private or home-based education illegal? Of course. But most people aren't extremists. Most people just want all families to have access to the kind of education that they find satisfying (because there is no one kind of education that will satisfy most families).

Okay, sorry for the rant. I'm a former teacher (special-ed) who is very interested in education and I very much enjoy your essays and your approach to being with very young children (they're my favorite kind).

Best regards,