Monday, February 13, 2012

Charter schools help privatize public education

Private charter school choice doesn't help strengthen public education. It helps privatize public education and turn it into a business for entrepreneurs and investors - whether profit or non-profit.

The head of Teach for America is married to one of the top officers of KIPP Charter schools. Would you like to guess the total annual income of this so-called non-profit couple helping poor kids get an education?

Compare their combined incomes to the salary of demoralized public school teachers who serve every day of the front lines of teaching and learning and who are ignored in the discussions about the future of their profession.

Today the big money in education is found in the corporate reform movement funded by large private foundations.  Good education policy should by determined by the public interest - not the private agendas of corporate reform foundations pushing one failed reform after another - all helping to push public education dollars toward private control.

Economist Milton Friedman made it plain before he departed this life. He commented on the opportunity presented by Hurricane Katrina to privatize education in New Orleans:

 "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins," Friedman observed, "as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity."
"In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid brought back online, the auctioning-off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within 19 months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools." (The Shock Doctrine)
Charter schools were rushed into operation in New Orleans to conduct the largest charter school takeover in the nation while the poor citizens were missing and had no say.  The current Superintendent of Schools in New Orleans is a former Teach for America employee.

"What has emerged since Katrina wiped out New Orleans Schools is the quintessential corporate education model, with corporate charter schools now constituting 3 out of every four schools in the Big Easy.  This system based on the "portfolio model" was developed under the leadership of Paul Vallas, who became the highest paid superintendent in Louisiana history (over $400,000 annually) at at time when large numbers of children in New Orleans did not have textbooks and teachers bought their own chalk.

While Vallas and his toadies claimed the new charter system was open to all comers, what quickly emerged was a school caste system, with the poorest and neediest children shut out of schools where their test scores could damage the charter brands that were set up as the urban model for the nation." Schools Matter

What helps public education is public investment of time and resources to improve traditional public schools. There is no miracle. There is no short-cut. There is no simple solution. There is only hard work, dedication and commitment to providing a quality public education for all children.