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Daily News Editorial: Disingenuous or Naive

September 29, 2014

Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter seem to be getting a lot of mileage out of the fact that the idea for charter schools came from Al Shanker… and they are using it as the basis to call for an end to what they call “The Charter School Wars”. To their credit, Kahlenberg and Potter do not seem to be shills for charters in general: they include the factual findings without equivocation and do note that many charter schools are developed solely to turn a dollar. What they fail to point out, though, is that if there is a “war” going on it ISN’T between “public schools” and “charters” per se. The conflict is between non-profit public schools and for-profit privatization of a public service… and the for-profit charters are acting the same way as the ruthless for-profit vulture capitalists work. They prey on the weakest, they use money to buy political influence, they seek deregulation and aggressively use that to pay the lost wages possible, and they pay their CEOs grossly more than taxpayers would ever allow any employee to earn. If charter schools played by the same rules as public schools, emerged to meet the needs of students who struggle in public schools, and didn’t seek political favors (e.g. like Eva Moskovitz’ Success Academy’s demand for free rent for space in schools that required the relocation of existing students), there would be no “charter war”.

As I noted in an earlier blog in response to a story by Kahlenberg and Potter, “school reform” and the generic term “charter schools” has been expropriated by those in the business community who want to take over public education and turn it into something that can yield a handsome profit. Unlike Shanker’s vision for teacher run charters that change the way schooling is provided to needy children, though, privatized charter’s are top-down hierarchical organizations that focus on engineering the traditional factory model of schooling, treat teachers as replaceable parts on the factory floor, and sort and select students. If the media thought Al Shanker was indignant in the 70s and 80s, I cannot imagine what they would think of him today.

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