Wednesday, December 21, 2016

School Scope, The Wave: The Fallacies of School Choice, Part 2

My column for this week to be published Dec. 23, 2016 at www.rockawave.com


School Scope:  The Fallacies of School Choice, Part 2
By Norm Scott

At one point, a decade ago, the voices standing up against what I’ve termed the “ed deform” movement were few. But the mainstream press is beginning to catch on. Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker recently wrote:  “Missing in the ideological embrace of choice for choice’s sake is any suggestion of the public school as a public good—as a centering locus for a community and as a shared pillar of the commonweal, in which all citizens have an investment. If, in recent years, a principal focus of federal educational policy has been upon academic standards in public education—how to measure success, and what to do with the results—DeVos’s nomination suggests that in a Trump Administration the more fundamental premises that underlie our institutions of public education will be brought into question.”

The neighborhood public school as a center of community throughout the nation. What an ancient concept.

The school choice movement is a master plan over the past three decades marketed to degrade the public schools and promote a shift of public money into private, often profit-making hands. A key is to brand the entire concept of public schools as a failure of government and the teaching corps (emphasize incidents concerning bad teachers and create a negative image in the minds of the public). Imagine if there was a plan to unlock the money going to the police force where blame was placed the individual police when battling crime. Critics of police have never called for an alt/private police force to be created to give the public a choice. If Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos get their way, there will be only a cinder of a public school system left after they are done.

A few weeks ago a Rockaway parent sent a letter to The Wave challenging my stance opposing charters, vouchers, education tax credits, and the so-called school “choice” movement and my opposition to Betsy DeVos as articulated in my Dec. 9 column (http://tinyurl.com/z7jxw3o) and I replied in Part 1 on Dec. 16  http://tinyurl.com/gv3jzpn where I talked about public schools as a guaranteed institution and part of the fabric of American life. I suggested we continue the dialogue.

The anonymous parent left this comment on my blog.
Please tell me if I understand your objections to vouchers and charter schools. You believe:
·      Public education is corner stone for creating a common American culture and any diffusion would weaken our Republic.
·      Charters and vouchers take precious money away from the traditional schools thus creating more dysfunction.
·      Public funding of religious schools violate the "No Establishment Clause" in the U.S. Constitution and the prohibition of public money being used in private religious schools in the New York State Constitution.
·      For profit schools are fundamentally skewed to favor the corporation over the students and the students will suffer.

He nailed some of the essence of what I was trying to say in a way I do not always articulate. Not to say I convinced him.

The shift of funding from public schools into private, often unregulated and for profit hands, holds great danger for the very future of a public school system. In New Orleans the entire system is charter and Detroit is headed that way. Without any neighborhood public school options left there is less choice. One New Orleans parent I know who originally supported charters found that she had to send her child across town because he couldn’t go to the charter across the street.   (Please read this Dec. 12, 2016 NY Times article, How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools [http://tinyurl.com/zpc2vlq] on DeVos’ disastrous impact on causing mayhem in Detroit schools.).

That is not to say that public funds are not misused but there is a greater degree of accountability. In the long run we end up with either no public school system or a sliver only serving kids no one wants. If your child has difficulty or a handicap, you may be out of luck. Next year DeBlasio has to run, partially on his management of the schools. Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz gets public money for 40 schools and 40,000 students but doesn’t have to run for anything. And she can pay herself a half a million bucks a year with no public oversight. Charters - especially the avaricious chains like Eva Moskowitz' have the intent - no matter what they say -- to skim off all the top performing kids they can, leaving the unwanted to whatever is left of public schools.

School choice is marketing. And if your kid doesn't make the cut of the school you want then you find you are in the woods - especially if your neighborhood public school no longer exists.

Norm keeps raving away at ednotesonline.com. Happy holidays.

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