Saturday, November 22, 2014

What We Lose When We Replace Public Schools With Charter Schools

Among most frightening things about the replacement of public schools with charter schools in low and moderate income communities are the removal of schools from public scrutiny, the institutionalization of authoritarian school management, and the suppression of parent, teacher and student voices
Our public schools, with all their faults, were places where the public had input, whether it was by legislators, school boards, parents, or community leaders. They were public institutions in the best sense of the world, where community meetings were held, where programs open to the community were often sponsored and where voting took place during elections for public office. In contrast, all too many charter schools see the communities they are located in as toxic and seek to insulate the children and families in them from their surroundings. They run their schools as heroic outposts of civilization and progress in a grim social landscape, limiting access to their buildings to those enrolled in the school, and seeing the communities cultural traditions as more a threat than an asset to their efforts to march students to "college and career readiness."
Along with that approach comes a top down management style where high paid school CEO's have far more power than public school principals to intimidate staff, discipline students, fire teachers and push out students and families. It is not uncommon for charter schools to have enormous teacher turnover, high rates of student expulsion, and disciplinary policies which would not be tolerated in a public school. Fear of the school CEO shapes school culture in a way that leave teachers parents and students little recourse, since charter schools are freed from many of the regulations that public schools operate under.
What we are seeing, unfortunately, is that political officials, in a desperate effort to produce better results on test scores in low and moderate income communities, are willing to sacrifice democratic traditions, community input, and due process for teachers and students.
That is a fearsome price to pay for "global economic competitiveness" and "the production of a 21st Century workforce" goals which our public officials and education leaders claim they are pursuing.