The scholars laid out four important tasks: improving the economy’s productivity, bolstering workers’ economic security, investing in education to close the opportunity deficit of low-income families, and ensuring that Middle America reaps a larger share of the spoils of growth.
After years of reading that “school reform” is rooted in and allied with the civil rights movement, it is heartening to read that three civil rights groups— the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the Southern Poverty Center— are pushing back. Sunday’s NYTimes featured an article by Kathy Zernike highlighting the emerging rift between civil rights organizations and the for-profit charter schools they portray as “...the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires”:
In separate conventions over the past month, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Movement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have exacerbated segregation, especially in the way they select and discipline students.
Instead of standing on the sidelines as charter schools take over public education in urban areas, civil right groups are beginning to see the corrosive effects of charter school cherry-picking on the students left behind in underfunded public schools. As Zernicke notes:
Although charters are supposed to admit students by lottery, some effectively skim the best students from the pool, with enrollment procedures that discourage all but the most motivated parents to apply. Some charters have been known to nudge out their most troubled students.
That, the groups supporting a moratorium say, concentrates the poorest students in public schools that are struggling for resources.
But the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are not alone in their disdain for charter schools. The Clarion-Ledger, a part of the USA Today newspaper chain, reports that the Southern Poverty Law Center is filing a suit against the Mississippi state government to “…strike down the Mississippi Charter School Act” because:
The Mississippi Constitution requires schools to be under the supervision of the state and local boards of education to receive public funding. But under the act, charter schools receive public funding even though they are exempt from the oversight of the state Board of Education, the Mississippi Department of Education and local boards of education.
While only 3% of the state funds currently go to charter schools, those filing the suit know where this train is headed and want to make sure it doesn’t leave the station.
“I sent my children to a public school because I believe in traditional public schools,”Cassandra Overton-Welchlin, a plaintiff in the case and mother of two children enrolled there, said in the news release. “I’m outraged that state and local tax dollars are funding charter schools in a way that threatens the existence of important services, including services for those with special needs, at my child’s school. As a taxpayer, I expect my property tax dollars will be used to support traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of students in Jackson.”
Here’s hoping these public actions by traditional and new civil rights groups compels “…the pet projects of foundations financed by white billionaires” from making the claim that their efforts to tap into what they call the “potentially profitable public school market” is a civil rights issue!
After months of FOiA requests, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) finally got some financial information on charter schools that enabled their staff to analyze charter spending vs. public school spending… and the results were astonishing. As Caitlin McCabe reported yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Charter-school administrative expenditures are nearly double those of conventional public schools, and their highest-ranking officials are paid far more.
They spend less on instruction than school districts, but more on support services and facilities.
And while charter-school enrollment has jumped significantly over time, payments to the schools are far outpacing their actual rates of growth in admission.
The charter school advocate’s response was both predictable and laughable:
Charter-school advocates have countered that charters provide more choices for families, and can increase learning opportunities and encourage innovation.
“Charter schools are already subject to the same accountability and transparency laws as district schools,” the (Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools) said in a statement. It said that despite some opposition from the school boards association, the legislature has been working to pass legislation that would increase charter school accountability.
The “choice” and “innovation” arguments are based on the false assumption that market forces will yield higher quality and more innovations when all evidence indicates that the driving force behind for-profit charters is, well, profit for shareholders. The “transparency” claim is completely bogus given the efforts PSBA had to make to get clear and concise financial information from charters, 47% of whom did not reply until PSBA filed an appeal with the Office of Open Records and 11% of whom never replied. And that “opposition from school boards association” is based on the fact that the PA legislature is attempting to bundle all education issues into one comprehensive bill. Here’s a statement from the PSBA on the legislation:
House Bill 530 contains some good provisions, however it also contains provisions that are questionable. Several organizations have reviewed the legislation and we feel it is important to provide a comprehensive review of the entire bill. The sheer size of the measure that attempts to obtain a grand compromise perhaps is a reason for why confusion will continue to arise. This issue would be far better if it could be debated and finalized issue by issue.
As noted in my previous post, maybe it’s time for the Justice Department to intervene and insist that charters conduct themselves in accordance with the same regulations as public schools… but in PA the AG’s office has been as opaque and dysfunctional as the charter schools. A better hope would be for voters to realize where their tax dollars are going and stop the trickle up economics.
Anthony Marx’ NYTimes op ed article, “Too Poor to Afford the Internet”, implies but never states the obvious: how can children who do not have daily access to the internet be expected to be “ready to work”? Virtually all jobs today— even those at fast food chains and Walmarts— require on-line applications and most retail work today requires some kind of fundamental data entry skill. If someone is unfamiliar with keyboarding skills, how can they possibly complete an online application form? And if a school is serving children who don’t have access to a computer at home, how can they use the on-line programs that are increasingly prevalent in schools today? Finally, how can the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ever hope to expand their base of sales of technology products or use of Facebook if there is a large group of Americans who cannot afford to buy a computer or acquire on-line services? Maybe the tech titans will realize what Henry Ford did: if you want to sell a product you have to make sure the public is paid enough to buy what you are selling. If they did they math on this, they might find it in their interest to get behind ideas like a $15/hour minimum wage or a guaranteed wage for everyone that enable them to have food. clothing, shelter, and access to the tools needed to land a job.
In “How Populism is Rewriting the Charter School Narrative” Jeff Bryant reports on two recent actions that undercut the myths created by “school reformers” who support for-profit charter schools. The first myth, that for-profit charters are redressing a civil rights issue, was upended when the NAACP recently adopted a resolution calling for “a nationwide “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” Bryant writes:
The NAACP resolution, which passed at the national convention in July but will not be official until the National Board meeting later this Fall, cites numerous problems posed by charter schools including their tendencies to increase segregation, impose “punitive and exclusionary” discipline policies on students, and foster financial corruption and conflicts of interest.
As one would expect, the reformers did not take this action lying down. The Democrats for Education Reform declared the resolution a “disservice to communities of color” and charter chain owners characterized it as a sell out to teachers’ unions. But as Bryant notes, the NAACP is only one of many civil rights organizations who are questioning the motives and practices of for-profit charter chains:
…the Movement for Black Lives (MBL)– a coalition of over 50 black-led organizations aligned with Black Lives Matter – also is calling for a moratorium on charter schools… Journey for Justice – an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 21 cities across the country – declares in a statement that its constituency of largely African American local activists is “demanding the end of unwarranted expansion of charter schools.” Another voice for civil rights, the Internet-based collective known as Educolor, also issued a general statement in support of the MBL platform.
Why this change? Because there is no evidence supporting the “fact” that for-profit charter chains improve the educational opportunities for students of color and an increasing amount of evidence that indicate they use the very practices that result in higher suspension rates and the criminalization of misconduct.
The second event Bryant cites is the defeat of dark money funded elections in Nashville, where board members supported by parent advocacy groups defeated a slate of candidates funded by “…charter advocacy groups and the local Chamber of Commerce (who) invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars to knock off their opponents and elect a pro-charter majority to the board.” The pro-“reform” media has been silent about this defeat, but, as Bryant notes in his closing paragraph, they are probably working on a re-boot… but the public MAY be wise to their game:
Of course, charter school propagandists still have plenty of rhetorical arrows in their quiver. But what’s abundantly clear is that while they’ve been completely free to write the charter school narrative in their own words, now the people are telling their version of the story. And the ending is no doubt going to look way different.
Here’s hoping that these recent development in grassroots organizing are picked up by the mainstream media and as a result the public’s perception is aligned with the actual results of for-profit charters and NOT the story the “charter school propagandists” have sold to them.