In recent months, I lost whatever illusions I used to have that there is a shred of idealism behind the Education Reform movement touted by the American Legislative Exchange Program and the U.S. Department of Education. No one is even pretending anymore that their reforms will raise student achievement or reduce class and race inequities. Since the reforms are accompanied by draconian budget cuts that raise class size and dramatically reduce arts sports and science programs which keep students motivated, they wouldn’t improve student outcomes even if they were actually designed to do so, or were capable of doing sounder ideal conditions.
So since current economic conditions are far from ideal and the reforms won’t ever realize their original objective, which was to improve student achievement, why are political leaders going ahead with them full steam
1. They save money. Every time you replace a public school with a charter school or initiate a school turnaround program which requires you to replace half of the teaching staff, you end up dramatically reducing budget outlays for pensions and salaries both in the short run and the long run. Privatization and firing of veteran teachers is a huge benefit to states facing budget deficits. Who cares if they make so called “failing schools” worse and end up increasing gaps in achievement and attendance between schools in wealthy and poor neighborhoods.
2. The make money for private interests. Increasing the number of tests makes money for those who produce the tests and those who create software to use the results to assess teacher performance. Creation of charter schools also puts profits in the pockets of school management companies and even hedge funds who invest in charter school construction.
3. They create jobs for the children of the elite. At a time when youth unemployment is at an all time high and there is no longer a national teacher shortage, firing veteran teachers through school turnaround programs creates jobs for young people from elite backgrounds in programs like Teach for America, who otherwise would not be able to get teaching positions. Who cares if the people being fired are often Black and Latino, and from the neighborhoods they teach and most of those being hired are white and from wealthy suburbs. We all know we are living in a post racial society and that the race and class of teachers doesn’t matter, right?