Thursday, February 14, 2008

An Even Playing Field?

You gotta wonder. When people talk about charters, they marvel at their achievements, even though their results are clearly uneven. Yet no charter I know of is wedged into a 250% capacity building, as are all my students. Also, no fewer than 100% of charter students have parents proactive enough to select schools for their kids.

Then you find that billionaires like Eli Broad and Bill Gates are supporting these schools, in a manner of speaking. But really, when they earmark their donations to KIPP or Aspire, or whatever private chain comes down the pike, they provide startup cash and stick taxpayers for the rest.

Typical charter schools such as Green Dot, which Broad also subsidizes with what are probably tax-deductible gifts, are privately controlled and run by unelected, self-appointed boards that are effectively unaccountable to the public. The State Board of Education and the state agency that "oversees" charters are now dominated by pro-charter appointees.

That's in California, of course. But here in New York, Green Dot leader Steve Barr has UFT head Randi Weingarten firmly tucked into his pocket, and can continue to boast of "unionized" schools without tenure or seniority rights for teachers who work there. And, of course, when these attacks on the rights of working people succeed, our kids grow up with fewer rights themselves. And though charter schools can fire employees for offenses like comparing public school salaries, they don't appear to serve the same kids we do:

...Through what amounts to a contract with parents and students, they screen their applicants and admit a clientele that, in a traditional public school, would do as well or better than they are doing in the charter school.

If Broad's pet charters had to accept 3,000 limited-English, low-income students from ethnic backgrounds that include a high percentage of single-parent families, with widespread gang involvement and little commitment to education, scores that the charters now trumpet would fall significantly. But working with a select group of students who would score well at any school, Broad's charters garner only somewhat better-than-average test scores - despite the massive amount of public and private money poured into them.

It seems the cards are stacked in their favor. Of course, when you have billionaires and union heads effectively in your pocket, you're not really gambling anyway.

I love it when "reformers" talk about school choice, and pat themselves on the back for their generosity. Meanwhile, the biggest "reformer" of all, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, treats my community public school like an oversized can of sardines, reserving state of the art facilities for charter schools run by billionaires.

Thanks to California Teacher Guy
blog comments powered by Disqus