Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why Charter Schools Have to Try to Destroy Public Schools

Many observers have been perplexed about why Charter School Organizations in New York, especially Eva Mosokowitz's Success Academies, have been spending huge amounts of money to mobilize in behalf of Andrew Cuomo's entire package of education reforms, not only his proposal to end the cap on charter schools, but  also his punitive system of teacher  evaluations which vastly increases the "stakes" attached to Common Core aligned tests, and take power away from principals.

Why are charters, which were once promoted as sources of innovation which would improve public schools, now pushing hard for measures which would saddle public schools with huge numbers of tests, weaken teachers unions, and vastly increase state authority over school administrators?  Doesn't that approach undermine the original mission of charters?

It would be tempting to attribute this approach entirely to an effort to appropriate the anti-union politics of the Charter Movement's big money contributors, thereby assuring their continued support,  but the explanation also lies in the implications of the charter's own labor practices.  Quite simply, if charters are surrounded by strong, well led  public schools, they will not be able to keep their best teachers, who very quickly get worn down and fed up with the long hours and authoritarian adminstrative practices they experience in most charter schools.

Look what happened in New York City last years when for a few short months, the NYC Department of Education lifted its hiring freeze on new teachers which had been in effect ever since the 2008 Recession.   The city's top public schools were DELUGED with applications from charter school teachers desperate to become part of school communities where they were treated with respect, and not scripted, micromanaged and intimidated on a daily basis.

 If that hiring freeze lasted a few years, New York's charters would have lost a good portion of their teaching staffs, or would have come under incredible pressure to unionize.

 But you can't count on that happening so you have to do what is second best;; put such pressure on NYC schools to raise scores on tests that their administrative practices have to become indistinguishable from charters, turning into places where teachers autonomy and professionalism is systematically undermined and micromanaging and intimidation are the orders of the day.

 That is exactly what Cuomo's education proposals would do. Not only would they remove the cap on charters, they would force public schools to become "mini charters"- zones of pressure, stress and intimidation where teachers have little or no power.

  If you think this explanation is too conspiratorial, look closely at how most charters are run, and then look at what Cuomo's proposals would require public schools to do

 If implemented, they would make all public schools in the state places where fear trumps creativity, joy and love of learning.