Thursday, November 12, 2015
School Reform, Charters and Gentrification; The Bronx Connection (with reference to Camden, Detroit, Buffalo and Newark)
Those in the Bronx who want to know what happens when the nation's most battered urban spaces get in the crosshairs of developers, investors and their kissing cousins, school reformers, have many places to choose from-Detroit, Camden, Newark, Buffalo are among the best examples
In all of those places, the public schools are one of the first institutions to come under assault. Using the rhetoric of "school failure" to go after institutions which stood virtually alone as community spaces in the face of disinvestment, abandonment and the crack epidemic, financiers and developers, along with local politicians, launch a campaign to close public schools and replace them with charter schools FROM WHICH THEY DIRECTLY benefit, through a 39 percent tax credit. In the process, they eliminate one of the few places where local residents can meet, and which has some tradition of democratic governance, with institutions that are privately managed to which the community has no access. Charterization is not just an attack on public education, it undermines poor communities capacity to resist undermocratic attacks on their communities. It clears the path to gentrification!
This is why Bronx activists should look very carefully at what is happening in education in their borough. 33 of 144 receivership schools in New York state are in the Bronx, many of them located in neighborhoods targeted by developers. All of these schools are in danger of being turned into charters if their test scores don't dramatically improve. Coincidently- though perhaps not- the Bronx Borough President just announced himself to be a strong supporter of charter schools and spoke at a big charter school rally organized by Eva Moskowitz of Success Academies.
The prospect of the South Bronx and West Bronx becoming majority charter school areas at a time when developers have an eye on those areas for major investments is truly frightening. It is why those fighting gentrification in the Bronx, and those fighting to preserve public education in the borough need to work together.
In both instances, the voice of community residents will be smothered in favor of powerful investors who benefit from what is promoted as reform and opportunity.