Sue sent me what seemed to be the practiced lines of one well rehearsed in arguments that we will be hearing to support having charter schools in our state. These lies and half-truths were found in the comment section of an article on Slog, the Stranger’s blog, Surprise! Billionaire Charter Schools Backers Buy Enough Signatures.
I will go through this person’s remarks and respond to each comment made:
“President Obama supports the expansion of public charter schools.”
President Obama is listening to his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who as CEO in Chicago started the boom in charter schools as supported by developers who successfully gentrified many of the communities in south Chicago.
Duncan closed schools at the behest of Eli Broad and those wanting to invest in real estate development of minority communities. Those schools were closed and the students needed to be relocated to the schools that were deemed “charter schools”.
Unfortunately, as Obama’s basketball buddy, Duncan had a tremendous influence on Obama while in Chicago and I attribute Obama’s ignorance of what is happening in public education to the fact that he believed he had other areas and issues to focus on as president, leaving the decision-making to Duncan and his corporate backers as well as the fact that his daughters went to private schools in Chicago and now in D.C.
“The initiative is not opening the floodgates for charters. It would bring in the best of the best.”
When this person refers to the “best of the best” I will assume that they are judging these charter schools by either test scores or graduation rates. Based on that assumption, one has to consider the fact that charter schools cherry pick and counsel out IEP and ELL students and other students who they deem “low performing”. Charter schools do this to maintain state funding which is based on test scores. It’s also useful to have those sorts of statistics when promoting their schools.
Also, in the initiative there is a clause that would provide for additional charter schools each year. Per the post that I wrote titled Initiative I-1240: The money and the lies:
Allow a maximum of up to forty public charter schools to be established over a five-year period as independently managed public schools operated only by qualified nonprofit organizations approved by the state;
Require that there will be annual performance reviews of public charter schools created under this measure, and that the performance of these schools be evaluated to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed;
So, with these two statements, the state of Washington is “allowed” a maximum of 40 charter schools over a five-year period but on the other hand, that maximum can be raised. Hmmm.
Also, per the writers own admonition, Obama and Duncan are pressuring states to lift the cap on charter schools and there is no reason why that would not happen in Washington State as well.
Now for the writer’s next point:
Saying that most charters don’t do any better than traditional schools is a lame talking point – it’s like saying that if you take all of the movies ever produced, the average quality of those is average or below average.
Actually, it is a very good point. Why put public dollars into charter schools, a system that has not proven to be any better and in most cases have had worse results than most public schools?
Why not instead put the effort into supporting our existing public schools and funding them adequately so that ALL students will succeed?
The next comment that was made by this pro-charter person:
3) There are many unions around the country that support charters. In Minnesota, the state teachers union actually became an authorizer for charters.
Actually, the teachers’ union did not support charter schools but has come to see that teachers have lost their voice in how they believe the curriculum should be approached. This is due to the top-down structure of charter schools and the fact that most charter schools are headed by a “CEO” who has no background in education and yet they determine how students should be taught. So they founded a “guild” that will oversee a few charter schools in Minnesota to ensure that the teachers have a voice in how the students are taught. After all, they are the experts.
And for their next comment:
4) Under the law, charters couldn’t self select – students would be chosen by lottery. A little known fact about WA’s much touted “innovation” schools is that there is an application/approval process for many of them, including Aviation High – which, btw, received money from Boeing and the Gates Foundation, “corporate money.”
The lottery was put into place as a way to bring attention to a charter school and make it seem that it is sought after. It’s a marketing ploy and nothing more.
Our progressive alternative schools and option schools take all students. There is sometimes a waiting list but ultimately all students are able to attend. The application process for “Innovation Schools” is a new one that was set into place by ed reformers during the last legislative session. Aviation High School was not part of that process, it was established many years ago.
Innovation schools unfortunately are set up as charter schools with no school board oversight. Not a good idea. See Is House Bill 1546 a charter schools bill in disguise? and Innovation Schools/Creative Approach Schools and ALEC.
When the Gates Foundation and Boeing provided funding for Aviation High School. it did not come with stipulations such as hiring Teach for America, Inc. recruits with 5 weeks of training to teach the classes, no school board oversight, incessant standardized testing, merit pay or a lottery system. Stipulations such as those come with the ed reform movement and are part of the package with charter schools.
And the next comment that was made:
5) Agreed that we need more money in education but voters will not just write a blank check into a failing system, even when the economy recovers. And times haven’t always been tough financially for WA schools – and there are many schools here in the state (look at Bridgeport High) that are doing great with less.
The “blank check” scenario is an interesting one to create but inaccurate. We are not meeting our state mandate of adequately funding our schools. That is no blank check, that’s our legal obligation. And yes, many schools are struggling to survive and some better than others. That has to do with the teachers and the principals putting more than they ever thought possible in terms of time and energy to ensure that their students get as much as they can during the time spent in school but those schools and others truly do need our support. Ask any principal at any school including the one in Bridgeport.
We need to revamp our education system – we are still mired in 19th century thinking and our graduation rates (among the lowest in the country).
The state of Washington is around number 43 in the country in terms of funding for education and that is reflected in our graduation rates. Also, many of those students are in poverty, something that ed reformers never want to mention or address. Poverty and a lack of social and family stability are factors in why a student does not graduate.
And actually, we are not “mired in 19th century thinking”. Just go to any option school in Seattle and you will see innovation. Start with Nova High School. The principal at the new STEM school worked closely with the principal at Nova High School in developing a project based structure for the new school.
Charters is one, tiny way to get the ball moving in the right direction, especially for kids who need the help the most. That’s not to say we shouldn’t shift our funding priorities to education, but serious changes to the system must happen alongside that increase.
Unfortunately the term “tiny” does not describe how privatization of schools has taken over entire school districts such as in New Orleans, Chicago and Philadelphia and New York.
And students who need it the most? See Bay Area KIPP schools lose 60% of their students, study confirms and Study Finds High Dropout Rates for Black Males in KIPP Schools.
One of the charter school franchise’s that you hear bandied about by ed reformers in our state is KIPP which has a track record for counseling out students who are “low performers”. These charter schools might take them in, but they are dropped like hot potatoes unfortunately after a very short period of time.
This also leads to charter school scams where a charter school will take on all students, collect the money from the district to teach them and then counsel them out or expel them. Then the public schools have to take them back with out the financial allotment that is received at the beginning of the school year.
Also, because charter schools do not have to adhere to district regulation, the students and parents have little legal recourse when the student is expelled.
These folks who are being paid directly and/or indirectly by Bill Gates, et al are lying or providing half-truths. All of their statements need to be verified and they need to be publicly called out at every turn.