Home > Uncategorized > Union Consultant Foretells Grim Future, but AP Reinforces False Narrative of Charter Schools

Union Consultant Foretells Grim Future, but AP Reinforces False Narrative of Charter Schools

When I read AP writer Christine Amario’s report on a presentation given to the Los Angeles School Board by Susan Zoller, “…a consultant hired by the district’s union”, I imagined union leaders in Los Angeles smacking their foreheads in a mixture of disbelief and anger. I am confident that the Board members who arranged for the report intended it to be a wake-up call for their colleagues to reconsider the direction LA schools are taking and hoped the national coverage that accompanied the release of the report would focus on the way for-profit charters divert resources from public education. But Ms. Amario had a different slant:

Charter schools arrived in the 1990s and began attracting parents searching for an alternative to big-city districts that had strained for years to raise performance among minority and low-income students and those who are learning English.

More than two decades later, charter enrollment continues to climb. Nationwide, more than 2.6 million students attended charter schools in 2014, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Ms. Amario did not tell the story of how de-funding of public education, combined with profiteering charter operators who accepted only those children who behaved well and whose parents completed application processes that required time and energy, combined with gentrification that re-segregated neighborhoods economically and, in some cases, racially, combined with the migration to suburbs left public schools with economically and educationally disadvantaged children housed in increasingly dilapidated facilities. Instead, Ms. Amario hewed to the narrative that charter schools “…began attracting parents searching for an alternative” as if the movement was driven by parent demand and not by a combination of the profit motive and political expediency. Instead of quoting from the report Ms. Zoller gave to the LA Board, Ms. Amario sought out quotes like this from the charter industry itself:

“To the extent the district is not serving the needs of their students, this has been a trend line for some time,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public CharterSchools, a nonprofit advocacy group.

And instead of elaborating on the problems that are unique to Los Angeles, Ms. Amario used the report by Ms. Zoller as an opportunity to roll out the woes of dysfunctional urban districts like Detroit, Kansas City, and Philadelphia where State legislators have starved funding for public education for decades while encouraging the expansion of for profit charters.

And last but not least, instead of using the article to elaborate on LA Board member Steve Zimmer’s observation that “If Los Angeles schools are no longer able to function as a district, “there is going to be collateral damage… to those children and families who are the most vulnerable.” she concluded the article with this:

Los Angeles parent Lisette Duarte is debating where to enroll her 11-year-old daughter. Her 16-year-old son already attends a charter school with many benefits she doesn’t see at their neighborhood school: a small learning environment, extra-curricular activities and close attention from teachers. Her daughter, by contrast, is struggling in a low-performing schoolwith a large English learner population, she said.

“It makes me really sad when I hear about parents who are still struggling,” she said. “We were that family struggling” in Los Angeles public schools.

Instead of asking why the charter has a small learning environment, extra-curricular activities and close attention from teachers while the public school is populated with ELL students that presumably lacks a small learning environment, extra-curricular activities and close attention from teachers Ms. Amario reinforces the charter industry narrative that only charters can save the day… charters that are buttressed with external funds, charters that can exclude those pesky ELL and special education children, charters that can require elaborate application processes that effectively shut out parents working two jobs or single-parents or parents of limited means, charters that do not have to assume the legacy costs of longstanding public school systems. The story I am certain Ms. Zoller hoped for was the one Mr. Zimmer was trying to tell: charters leave behind “…. those children and families who are the most vulnerable”. The story Ms. Zoller got published by the AP and circulated across the country was one about how charters are growing because they offer a good alternative to public schools. The vicious circle is reinforced….

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