Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable

Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable:

Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable

America's corporate education reform movement has been a marketing success. Reformers have popularized slogans that promote a radically new public school system; one where tenure and bargaining rights are abolished or severely degraded; where CEOs and administrators, who may have backgrounds in business, politics or public relations rather than education, make hiring and firing decisions; and where data-based accountability -- necessarily driven by test scores -- perpetually imperils schools, tenure- and union-less teachers, as well as students who must conform to onerous protocols and codes of conduct under charter school contracts.  Reformers' slogans such as "demography isn't destiny" and "poverty is no excuse" have been ingrained in the minds of all who follow education issues -- and have apparently been successful in advancing their agenda. But ironically, while reformers' slogans are well known, their core ideas around such reformer bedrocks as Teach For America, charter schools, and educational expertise are so objectionably elitist that they are unutterable. 
Unutterable belief #1: Though we cannot destroy teachers' and students' rights through democracy, we can destroy them through charter school proliferation.

By definition, a charter school is a school that writes its own rules; rules which, by definition, transgress the laws and regulations that conventional public schools must follow. If a charter school didn't need to write its own laws and rules, it wouldn't need a charter, and it therefore wouldn't be a charter school at all.  It would be a regular public school.
Before charter schools existed, the only ways to build non-unionized schools in union-dense states (non-"right-to-work" states), compel teachers (and children) to work longer hours, weeks, and school years, eliminate tenure, and elevate "CEOs" who lack experience in education to positions of power, were conventionally democratic ones. You could use the referendum process, or pressure your legislators to write new laws or amend old ones. For example, you could fight a contentious battle to enact controversial "right-to-work" laws, as many states have done. But the charter-granting process provides a convenient back door to normal union-busting methods. By convincing politicians (or better yet, unelected emergency managers) to perennially authorize more and more charters, reformist politicians can cynically disempower teachers under the guise of "school choice" -- without admitting that they are doing anything to affect unions.
How does this work? Basic economics tells us that the more charter schools that exist in the public school "market," the more difficult it is for public school teachers to maintain strong unions, pensions, tenure rights, and bargaining power.  Posit a large city whose mayor announces a plan to turn 50% of public schools into charter schools. These schools may hire uncertified teachers, require twelve-hour school days and six-day weeks, and need not be unionized or offer tenure, pensions, or competitive pay for their teachers. In such a case, the infusion of charters would radically transform education for 100% of students and teachers in his city, since the 50% who would become part of the charter system would suffer hardships and insecurity in accordance with the charters' rules, and the other 50% of teachers (from public schools) would quickly lose wages, benefits, job security, and freedom as the mayor takes advantage, during bargaining, of the high demand for and scarcity of public school jobs and the effective "scab" labor force that exists within the charter schools. Public school teachers' relationship to charter teachers is thus analogous to the relationship between US auto workers and Mexican autoworkers.
It becomes clear that charter schools may only harmoniously work alongside public schools if: A) they provide parity of pay, bargaining power, working conditions, and other freedoms and benefits to teachers and students, or if: B) their numbers are Education Reformers' Core Beliefs Are Objectionable:

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