I was puzzled to read the NYTimes headline “In Rent Plan for Charters, Mayor Faces a Hard Road” and even more mystified when I read the article that followed. My experience in setting rates for rentals is that there is a very easy line to be drawn: for profit organizations pay a premium rate based on the market rental for comparable space. So, if a motel has a 900 square foot function room that rents for “X” dollars per hour a 900 square foot classroom would rent for the same rate. Where DeBlasio seems to be getting bogged down is in setting a sliding scale. This is one area where he could take a page from the private sector: I doubt that a hotel cares what a renter’s balance sheet looks like. Why should a school district? My advice, based on 29 years of experience: set two rates: a market-based rate for for-profit organizations and a lower rate for non-profit organizations that serve children who attend school.
Progressive blogger David Sirota posted today on the deBlasio versus Cuomo dueling rallies, headlining his post as follows: “Charter School Leader Pushes Kids to Become Her Personal Lobbyists”. In the article he describes how Eva Moskowitz, the $499,000/year leader of Success Academy charter schools cancelled school earlier this week to have busloads of students from her school attend a rally in Albany. This brought to mind the suit I brought against the NYS commissioner of education who had what the staff attorney, a majority of my school board members, and I believed to be an overly narrow view of a state law that precluded me to hold community forums explaining the operating budgets to parents at “coffees” held in their homes. Without detailing the legal technicalities, the case was brought to overturn a ruling the commissioner made whereby he determined that information meetings were, by their very nature, advocating FOR school budgets and superintendents, administrators, and board members could not ADVOCATE, they could only EXPLAIN. Fortunately, the judge who heard the case did not endorse this logic— which meant that this practice could continue in our district and in districts across the state. That experience compelled me to leave this comment:
I can assure you from personal experience that NYS public school superintendents are explicitly forbidden from advocating for budgets in their own districts…. I cannot imagine an elected school board supporting a NYS school superintendent or school principal who cancelled school for the day to attend a political rally, AND secured school buses to transport children to the Capitol to attend a political rally, AND took out a full page ad in the NYTimes to advocate for spending…. oh, that’s right, charter schools don’t operate under the rules of democracy… they operate under the rules governing private enterprise.
I have no reason to believe the law precluding administrators and boards from advocacy has been repealed… but then public schools are obligated to follow one set of rules, rules that don’t apply to charter schools…
More evidence that Cuomo’s using faulty data in his defense of charter schools in NYC. NY voters, alas, have no choice at the State level: both parties embrace privatization.
Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:
Just the other day, we saw two competing visions for public education clash in Albany. Mayor Bill de
Blasio spoke at a rally in support of a real plan for universal pre-K for children. Governor Andrew Cuomo
spoke at a rally in support of the continued expansion and extra funding of charter schools.
The evidence supports only one of these visions. The evidence shows that the charter sector does not do
a better job than public schools, even narrowing our frame of reference to test scores. On the other hand,
the evidence is clear that universal pre-K…
View original 2,392 more words
” The 4 Most Profound Ways Privatization Perverts Education”, Paul Buchheit’s recent post in Alternet, covers much of the ground described in earlier posts on this blog but does so in a condensed and forceful fashion. Some points that I keep waiting for other bloggers to make:
- The public is unaware of this movement: Diane Ravitch’s writings and articles about her “conspiracy theory” regarding the business takeover of public education have made some inroads among those who follow the politics of schools, but the general public seems to care only about lowering their tax bills.
- Public school supporters argue on moral grounds, privatizers argue on fiscal grounds… and the public wants to pay as little as possible. Here’s a question that has a bad answer: If privatized charter schools achieve similar results to public schools on standardized tests for a lower cost per student, doesn’t that mean charter schools are more productive? If I see a car that performs as well as my Corolla but has lower monthly costs and costs less to operate, why would I keep my Corolla? Similarly, taxpayers who have no children in school (the great majority) and who believe that “poverty is an excuse” for poor performance (probably a sizable minority if not a majority), why would they support a moral argument that requires them to pay more for “government funded” public schools in the name of equity when”business operated” schools can get the same result for lower costs? Not many Americans are willing to pay more money in the short run so that democracy can thrive in the long run.
- Evidence doesn’t matter, memes do: Buchheit, like all bloggers and progressives who believe in fair play and equity, have reams of studies demonstrating that privatized charters do not perform any better than “government funded” public schools, and lots of anecdotal evidence showing that privatized schools are mismanaged and engage in questionable business and ethical practices, and lots of persuasive evidence that privatization is diminishing the opportunities for students raised in poverty or students with special needs to succeed in school…. but… evidence doesn’t matter to those who have faith in the private sector and suspicion of government. As noted frequently in this blog, the meme that “government is the problem” has stuck in the minds of most Americans and, as a result, neither political party is willing to describe the kinds of problems only government can solve and both parties advocate privatization of public services as the way forward.
Buchheit, Ravitch, Moyers, Reich, Hedges, all of them are on the same page in terms of privatization: they see that it relies on the distrust of government and rigs the system so that it favors the .5% over the rest of us. Sometimes, though, I have the sense that those of us diligently reading their posts and blogging about the failures of privatization are whistling in the wind… that maybe the system is beyond repair at this point. Chris Hedges seems to be at that point… while other bloggers and idealists, including myself, WANT to believe that the public will wake up to the way the system is currently rigged and want to fix it before it gets worse. Here’s hoping we’re right!
Yesterday’s Naked Capitalism cross-posted an article written by Pruning Shears blogger Dan Fejes describing Teach for America (TFA)’s link to the privatization movement. In the opening of the article he provides a brief description of TFA’s genesis:
(TFA) was a component of the Americorps program created during the Clinton administration, and plugged willing but un- or under-qualified young people into vacant positions in low income schools for two years. Identify schools that need teachers and have energetic, idealistic recent college grads work to make a difference. Sounds great.
Readers of progressive blogs know how it’s turned out: TFA is seemingly joined at the hip with the privatization movement’s leaders and serves as a low wage labor pipeline to staff newly opened privatized charter schools. Fejes’ post concludes with a good synopsis of how the privatization machinery works— and how TFA could avoid feeding the beast:
The model works like this: Mandate standardized testing, use TFA recruits to teach to the test, use the test results to “prove” the effectiveness of TFA, use the TFA pipeline to close schools and fire teachers, and replace both with charters staffed by lower paid, non-union TFA employees. (And please note that charters go tits up with all the orderliness and accountability of Freedom Industries.)
TFA could resist this trend if it wanted. It could refuse to send recruits to districts that have had (or are considering) substantial layoffs. It could offer to send recruits to public schools as assistants instead of replacements, which would be a huge benefit to schools. TFA chooses not to, though, and that speaks volumes. By all accounts it is content with the status quo (content enough not to buck it, anyway). In the absence of a clear and forceful refusal to cooperate, the only reasonable conclusion is that TFA is happy to collaborate with those who view schools as “ecosystems of investment opportunity.”
Because I want to assume the noblest of intentions in leaders, I believe that Wendy Kopp (TFAs founder) was and is sincerely interested in providing teachers for classrooms that serve children raised in poverty and knew that in order to do so she needed capital…. and the only people with capital were “…those who view schools as “ecosystems of investment opportunity”.
Assuming Ms. Kopp had noble intentions, here’s another scenario that could have provided TFA with the capital it needed: the federal government could have provided grant money.
“Wait!” I hear you saying, “The federal government doesn’t have grant money to hire teachers!”
Here’s my response to that: IF the federal government was truly interested in helping schools who serve children raised in poverty, instead of spending millions on Race to the Top grants, they could have poured money into states with the requirement that they use the money to hire additional teachers for school districts that serve children in poverty and TFA could have staffed those schools and allied themselves with existing teachers’ colleges and/or teachers unions to provide the training. Under this scenario State Departments of Education, State teachers colleges, and local school districts could have all shared in the benefits of the grant money. Of course private corporations who give tests, provide data, and use non-union staff would have suffered… and campaign contributors who believe in market based solutions to every problem would be dismayed… but students attending schools with high concentrations of poverty would have more support and fewer teacher layoffs would have occurred.
As Fejes indicated in his first paragraph, TFA’s basic premise “sounds great”. Too bad the only source of money for the idea that sounded great was the 1%… and too bad that our government decided privatization was the way forward for PUBLIC schools.