Monday, October 26, 2015

DIANE RAVITCH: Our real charter school nightmare: The new war on public schools and teachers -

Our real charter school nightmare: The new war on public schools and teachers -

Our real charter school nightmare: The new war on public schools and teachers

Our kids deserve strong schools and great teachers under local control. That's what the charter fight is all about

Peter Cunningham, who previously served as Arne Duncan’s assistant secretary for communications, is a very charming fellow. When he left the administration, he returned to Chicago. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation invited him to start a blog defending “reformers” who advocate for charter schools, high-stakes testing, teacher evaluation based on student test scores, and the rest of the Race to the Top agenda. The blog, called “Education Post,” received $12 million from several billionaires, including the Broad Foundation, the Michael R. Bloomberg Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
Peter just wrote a column that puzzled me. It appeared on Huffington Post. He says that teachers’ unions should embrace “reform” if they want public education to survive. I was puzzled because the major thrust of “reform” as currently defined is to privatize as many schools as possible and to eliminate teachers’ unions.
He writes:
“America’s teachers unions probably will not put reform leaders like Newark’s Chris Cerf, Philadelphia’s William Hite, D.C’s Kaya Henderson, or Denver’s Tom Boasberg at the top of their Christmas card mailing list. But they should, because no one is working harder to improve and preserve traditional, unionized, district-run schools.
“Yes, these and other reform superintendents support creating new, high-quality schools, including public charters, and giving all parents the power to choose the right schools for their children. But they and their leadership teams are most deeply committed to investing in and strengthening the existing district-run schools. No one wants these schools to work for kids more than these district leaders.”
Cunningham attributes opposition to charters solely to unions trying to protect their membership and their revenue. Why should unions feel threatened by privately managed charters? As Cunningham notes, 93% of charters are non-union. Cunningham thinks that everyone who opposes turning public tax revenues over to private operators has the sinister motive of protecting the unions. He even says that pro-public education bloggers are merely union fronts. Whether they are teachers, academics, or journalists, Cunningham can’t see any reason for them to question charters other than their allegiance to the unions. Unlike those who post on Cunningham’s “Education Post,” pro-public education bloggers are not paid for expressing their views.
Cunningham writes:
“Charter critics claim that charters pull resources and higher achieving students away from traditional public schools, but, in a poll conducted by Education Post, 65 percent of parents rejected this argument. Instead, they agreed that public charters offer high quality options to parents who have been traditionally denied the power of school choice.
“Teacher unions, who need unionized teachers and dues in order to exist, are fighting desperately to convince parents to stay with the traditional, district-run 
Our real charter school nightmare: The new war on public schools and teachers -