Home > Uncategorized > Still Think ESSA is a Good Idea? Three Stories Highlight Efforts to Erode Public Schools in Three Different States

Still Think ESSA is a Good Idea? Three Stories Highlight Efforts to Erode Public Schools in Three Different States

July 7, 2017

This morning’s in-box featured three stories describing how the erosion of public education is proceeding apace in three different states— MI, IN, and NY.

Two NPR stations offered brief print stories on the latest struggles for public education funding in Michigan, where it seems that the legislature is intent on funneling much needed money to parochial schools while simultaneously penalizing public schools who use funds to sue the state for the misuse of funding. At this juncture, the State’s efforts to fund parochial schools and shortchange public schools have been thwarted by the courts in response to a lawsuit filed by organizations funded by the local school districts. The legislature’s solution to this lawsuit? Use THEIR funds to appeal the lawsuit and pass a law that “…would penalize public schools that use state dollars for lawsuits against the state.”  Since one of the groups suing the legislature is the state-wide organization representing administrators, an organzation funded with dues paid by school districts, their head had a response:

Peter Spadafore is with the Michigan Association of School Administrators.  He said school districts have gone to court and won against the state on important issues.  This would put that ability in jeopardy.

Spadafore said, “You know I can see the spirit of this, but the idea here is really to tell school districts no they shouldn’t be suing the state.”

Or, more accurately, being told to sit down, shut up, and stop complaining. Hopefully elections in MI will turn the tide on this and both the US constitution that calls for a separation of church and state and the state constitution that calls for fair and equitable funding for schools will be honored.

Meanwhile in Indianapolis, Chalkbeat reporter Dylan Peers McCoy writes that the school board members, a majority of whom were supported and underwritten by “reformers” and StudentsFirst, is opening four new “innovative” charter high schools while simultaneously closing three traditional high schools due to low enrollment. If the charter schools were managed by the school district, there might be a way to make a straight faced argument for this shift, but the reality is that these innovation charters are not under the control of the local board… and the reason for this structure is explained in the article:

Advocates tout innovation schools as a tool for dramatically improving IPS. They are controversial, however, because they are a hybrid between charter and traditional public schools. IPS gets credit from the state for the test scores and other data from innovation schools, but they are managed by outside nonprofits or charter operators. Because teachers at the schools don’t work directly for the district, they are not part of the IPS union.

So while a greater number of Indianapolis high schoolers will presumably have more choices, it is clear that a greater number of Indianapolis teachers will work for less compensation and have less job security… and fewer “public” schools will be overseen by the elected school board.

And last but not least, StudentsFirst (recognize that name) NY’s Executive Director Jenny Sedlis is beaming in a picture in the NY Daily News with this caption: “Thanks to Albany leaders, productive conversations led to an agreement that’s good for all public school kids.” And why is she so happy? The headline for the story explains: “De Blasio’s extended control of Public Schools comes with a catch – expanding the charter sector and support for its students”. It seems that Governor Cuomo and the NY legislature are not happy with the mayor’s unwillingness to subsidize the charter schools by giving them free space and allowing them to expand into more venues in the city. Here’s the synopsis of the deal:

State charter authorizers will recycle and re-issue 22 licenses for city charter schools that had been revoked or awarded and never used, under the terms of the deal state lawmakers, Gov. Cuomo and education officials negotiated to extend de Blasio’s control of the city schools.

The deal also increases the city’s payments to charter operators for school facilities and provides MetroCards for charter school students whose classes begin before the start of the standard public school year.

So the STATE is diverting LOCAL funds to underwrite for-profit charters and requiring that LOCAL schools make space available FOR FREE to those same for-profit charters…. and both the State and the Mayor are characterizing this as giving the mayor “control” over the local schools. The concluding paragraphs of the story put this deal in context:

Some charter schools also receive significant financial support from billionaires in the hedge fund industry who have financed expensive lobbying and public relations campaigns against the mayor. Charter advocate and StudentsFirstNY executive director Jenny Sedlis called the deal a win for charter operators and their families.

“Charters have been battling with the de Blasio administration for the last four years, but thanks to Albany leaders, productive conversations led to an agreement that’s good for all public school kids,” Sedlis said. “Parents will have access to more school options and charter operators will get significant relief.”

If ALL parents had access to fully funded high quality schools staffed by fully qualified and experienced teachers this deal would be “good for all public school kids”… but when part of the deal is to siphon local funds to pay charter school operators those kids who are unable to make a choice suffer.

Taken together, these stories show what happens when control is devolved to the State and local level: there is a move toward privatization wrapped in the language of the marketplace and a move toward lower wages and less job security for teachers. Those who love the free-market gig economy are elated… but those of us who seek a fair and equitable level playing field for all children and parents are disappointed. Do you still think ESSA is a good idea?

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