School Choice Week Poses Yet Another Dilemma for Democrats
Valeris Strauss, the Washington Post‘s education writer posted an article today that included a cross-post from Georgia blogger Bertis Brown that opened with these three paragraphs:
This is School Choice Week, the annual exercise when well-funded, corporate school reform outfits pour money into advertising and marketing to promote charter schools as well as vouchers and other programs in which the public pays for private and religious school tuition.
School Choice Week coincides with the confirmation drama of President Trump’s nomination of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary, who has said the public education system in the United States is a “dead end,” and who is seen by critics as a supporter of privatizing public education. DeVos stumbled at her Senate confirmation hearing last week, displaying a lack of understanding of key education issues, and Democrats have sought — unsuccessfully — a second hearing before the Senate Education Committee votes on whether to approve her nomination.
After years of supporting traditional Republican corporate education reform ideas, many Democrats seem to now realize how bad her policies to “voucherize” American education would be for teaching and learning as well as the principle of educational equity. The opposition to DeVos has brought people together across education reform philosophies, a dynamic similar to recent ballot measures in Georgia and Massachusetts, when people of different political beliefs chose local control of public schools rather than increasing the influence of the political and private sector.
Like many public school advocates, I have been disappointed in the Democratic Party’s decision to support “…traditional Republican corporate education reform ideas” and I have not been surprised to see how this embrace of corporate reform has ended with policies that will ““voucherize” American education” and, in so doing, undercut any advances made in the past decades to bring about educational equity. As noted in previous posts, I fear that no matter how the DeVos hearings come out, the Republicans will prevail in their effort to get a corporate minded pro-voucher pro-privatization “reformer” in place and if they fail with DeVos because of her inexperience they will ultimately find someone with more burnished credentials will do their bidding. When that happens, we will have nearly two decades of public eduction where “quality” was defined by test scores, two decades where districts who educate children from affluent and highly educated children have a distinctly different and superior educational opportunity than those children who are raised in poverty. And the parents in those affluent school districts will wonder why there is so much concern over test scores and why so many parents in “other school districts” are upset about the narrow curriculum their children have.
I am choosing to take heart in the recent results of statewide referenda in Massachusetts and Georgia where voters turned down propositions that would expand the number of charter schools. Why? Because voters in those states came to understand what the idea behind these propositions REALLY was and what the effects of the vote would REALLY be. And when the public understands that more charters REALLY means more opportunities for profit and no more opportunities for learning, they will “…(choose) local control of public schools rather than increasing the influence of the political and private sector.”
The President, Republican politicians in DC, and the 35 capitols where Republicans are in the Statehouse are participating in “…the annual exercise when well-funded, corporate school reform outfits pour money into advertising and marketing to promote charter schools as well as vouchers and other programs in which the public pays for private and religious school tuition.” It would be wonderful if there was a public school education week when students, parents, and teachers could flood the streets the way women did last weekend. Maybe a display of solidarity will get the message to our elected politicians: we want to choose locally controlled well funded public schools over those run by for-profit entrepreneurs on Wall Street.