The following was just sent to me by a Bay Area Educator to provide some context as to why Elizabeth Warren's choice of a charter school teacher to honor at her rally was so controversial
It focuses less on Warren and the young teacher she introduced than the unhappy history of
Charter Schools in the Oakland Unified School District
Oakland Unified has been warmly welcoming to charter schools and “reformers” from the beginning, and the organization Great Oakland Public Schools (GO Public Schools), funded by the Waltons and other billionaires, has been the orchestrator of much of that, pushing the usual “reform” policies into the district. OUSD has been increasingly troubled and gone through waves of financial crisis. A recent “reform” superintendent* left the district in even more dire financial chaos than ever.*
in the last few years OUSD has begun assessing the toll charters have taken, and recently released a report detailing the financial devastation they've wrought on the district. And the district was just racked by a teacher strike in which charters were a huge issue. Basically, charters have become radioactive in Oakland.
Then, last weekend Elizabeth Warren made a successful appearance at a huge Oakland rally, introduced by a former teacher who mentioned her five years teaching in a high-poverty part of the district. An Oakland teacher who was at the rally thought it was strange that that the teacher didn't mention the strike at all, so she Googled the teacher and learned that her five years had been at a charter school. The speaker had also been a fellow with GO Public Schools and had appeared in a promotional ad for them.
Because charters have become so toxic in Oakland, this blew up right away, and then it blew up still more – why would Warren's campaign pick a charter teacher under the circumstances, and can Warren clarify her position on charters and “reform” (which is currently vague) Diane Ravitch posted a somewhat strongly worded item about it, and then teacher blogger Steven Singer misidentified the teacher as a “charter lobbyist.” Then it became apparent that Warren's education adviser is from Teach for America, raising even more of ruckus.
I have two mutual friends with the young teacher who introduced Warren, and they tell me she's devastated by the brouhaha. She hadn't gotten the memo that any association with charters had become toxic. She had worked on union organizing at the charter she taught at and has done other good things. The fellowship with GO Public Schools must have required some la-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you, but she was reportedly working on productive projects through that as well.**The ruckus grew; Steven Singer corrected his misinformation and apologized; then Solnit came out with her commentary heaping epithets upon everyone who raised concerns about the choice of a charter teacher – which really was unfair and unkind, because except for some leaps like Singer's, these were sincere concerns, and Warren hasn't put them to rest. So that's the story. Solnit's take is essentially, “Warren says she's against for-profit charters and will appoint a teacher as Ed Sec, so what's your problem?” – because Solnit doesn't know enough about education controversies to understand that it isn't just for-profit charters that are the issue, and to grasp that it makes a difference if the teacher appointed as Ed Sec is from the charter sector and/or TFA.
*The superintendent was Antwan Wilson, who came from Denver and then moved on to D.C., and then was fired for cheating to get his child into a prized D.C. magnet school.
**One baffling thing, though, is why the young woman would VOLUNTEER for GO Public Schools, as she told Solnit she had. They're funded by the Waltons and a list of other billionaires.