Friday, November 23, 2007

Beach Channel and New York's future


Colleagues and friends:

As we've been reporting in Substance for more than five years, the Beach Channel plan is typical of the way in which the general (i.e., community based) high schools are sabotaged under mayoral control.

As the dictatorship creates more and more "choice" schools (selective enrollment, charters, whatever they are called), more and more of the "leftover" kids are channeled into the remaining general high schools. Then, because of "standards and accountability", the administration can prove that these schools are "failing" (and probably "persistently dangerous") to justify closing or flipping them (to charters or other privatization schemes).

In Chicago, this is the pattern that has been followed for more than a decade, with the ugliest examples coming forward within the past five years, since Arne Duncan began closing schools for "failure" in 2002 and converting them into something or other else.

So far, five general high schools in Chicago (all of them all-black) have received this treatment, and most of their space has now been taken away from their communities and handed over to the privatizers.

Collins High School (1313 S. Sacramento, West Side, North Lawndale) is now "Lawndale College Prep Charter High School."

Austin High School (231 N. Pine St., West Side, Austin community) now houses Chicago's "entrepreneurship small charter high school" (American Quality Schools); a thingy called the "Austin Polytechnic" (another choice school, but run by a group of "progressives"), and (soon) another small selective school.

Calumet High School (8010 S. May, South Side) is now "Perspectives Charter High School" completely exclusive (admission requirement; they can kick you out if your fail to follow your performance contract; etc.)

Englewood High School is graduating its last public kids in June 2008, while "Urban Prep" (a much hyped all-boys charter school, uniforms and all that) and "Team Englewood" (a different kind of something or other) are taking over the building where, among others, Lorraine Hansberry went to school.

If people are not organizing and publicizing these acts of sabotage as they occur, and challenging them when the next stage of privatization takes place, you will lose as completely as Chicago did. You are probably in a better position because your union leadership may be venal, but at least they are not dumb (as most of Chicago's are), because you still have competitive newspapers (and some other media) and because they haven't destroyed your infrastructure of union and community activists at the local school level.

Every day, I heard from someone at a general high school that's being sabotaged by corporate "school reform" in Chicago. And every one of those people is so frightened ("Look what they did to you..." is often part of the mantra, referencing the fact that they got away with firing me and blacklisting me from public high school school teaching, Chicago and suburbs) that he or she will not be quoted on the record.

Ultimately, "BloomKlein" will micromanage its media spin, right down to going after every individual who is quoted against their programs, whether at Beach Channel or elsewhere. I suspect that the principal and the UFT chapter leader at Beach Channel have already been warned in some fashion. By documenting and exposing every instance of that kind of stuff as it happens, you may be able to avoid the fate Chicago's general high schools have been suffering.

Otherwise, the script for your future has already been written here, and that story on Beach Channel is a prophecy of what the future holds for dozens of high schools that will be "stuck" with the "leftover" kids until the BloomKlein propaganda machine discovers (like that famous scene out of "Casablanca") that there is "failure here."

Well what did you expect, M______ when you sabotaged us for the last five years? Rhodes scholars and Mother Theresa?

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

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