Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Teachers Unite Presents – Jan. 10, 2008

How will we reclaim public schools from privatization?

Thursday, January 10th, 5-7p.m.
Location TBA

Millions of dollars are exchanged between New York City’s Department of Education and private companies. How do these relationships impact our classrooms? What can be done about the seemingly inescapable trend of schools privatization?

Michael Fiorillo, Chapter Leader, Newcomers High School
Leonie Hamison, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

Discussion to follow.

Please RSVP to

This forum is the third in a series of events where educators can relate their experiences in schools to larger political trends. The 2007-2008 forums focus on the impact of privatization and the corporate model on classroom life in NYC public schools.

Teachers Unite provides leadership opportunities that build ties between educators and community organizers, and political education forums that build an informed teacher constituency. Teachers Unite is an organization for educators who act in solidarity with the communities they serve.

NOTE: See comment #1 as George Schmidt attempts to answer some of Sean's questions.

Sean Ahern raises the following thought-provoking questions:

I had some questions for the Jan 10 forum.

"How will we reclaim public schools from privatization?"

1) What is meant by "privatization" in NYC public schools?

2) Are public assets being sold or given away to private interests? Who's selling and who's buying? Are we talking about ownership or control? Who has lost what as a result of "privatization"?

3) Is it in the interests of the majority of educators and parents to seek a restoration of the old system, with the professional educrats and the UFT leadership back in the catbird seat? If not then what are we seeking to reclaim?

4) Most NYC public schools followed a factory model in the past. What are the differences and similarities between past and present models, between a public school and a privatized one? What do educators and parents and students want that neither past nor present systems provide?

5) Where is privatization coming from? Federal, state, city governments? "A Nation at Risk", NCLB, Put Children First, the Chicago model? Private companies, foundations?

6) Is Mayoral control a necessary component of "privatization"?

7) Do we have testimony from teachers, parents, students, comparing the privatized school with the public school?

8) Does this call to "reclaim public schools from privatization" seek to restore the past, in part or in whole?

9) Who is the "we" that can "reclaim" public schools and who is this "we" reclaiming it for? Does this "we" include the UFT leadership and educrats and pundits who exerted considerable influence over the public schools before privatization became a "seemingly inescapable trend"? Why did that "we" fail to stop "privatization"? What reason is there to believe that this "we" can or should "reclaim" it from the privatizers or that rank and file teachers and parents should be party to any effort to restore the claim of this "we" to control of the public schools? If this "we" includes rank and file teachers and parents of color along with the UFT leadership and leaders and pundits of the educracy such as Diane Ravitch, what changes will be made to empower educators and parents in a new system?

10) Are there any positive effects of privatization or Mayoral control from the standpoint of educators, parents and students that the latter might want to retain after public schools are "reclaimed".


1 comment:

  1. Sean (and others).

    I'd love to address all of your questions, but only have time tonight to go
    over one based on our experience here in Chicago:

    << 6) Is Mayoral control a necessary component of "privatization"? >>

    Yes. I'd say, based on recent history, the answer is an affirmative. There
    are other things that have to be in place

    corporate media publishing propaganda as "news";

    the destruction of an independent advocacy community by the corporate
    foundations that fund not-for-profits;

    a history of animus towards teachers and unions);

    support from some "progressives" for corporate "school reform" (in Chicago
    this has been most dramatic from the "Small Schools" people);

    misleadership in the teachers' union (and dividing the teachers from other

    and probably some other things I'm missing, but but but

    But the key component is mayoral control.

    Chicago is a central example, although not the only one.

    Chicago is certainly the oldest, having gone through this version of the
    Shock Doctrine since 1995, when the Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly
    (both House and Senate) and the (Republican) Governor (Jim Edgar) teamed up
    with the Clinton Democrats in Chicago (Richard M. Daley) to abolish all democracy
    in school governance and create the nation's first big city mayoral

    Privatization was written into the Illinois law (the "Amendatory Act" of
    1995) that gave the mayor of Chicago dictatorial control over the Chicago Public
    Schools. It explicitly stated that ancillary services (especially custodial)
    had to be privatized. As a result, thousands of jobs that had paid union wages
    (like custodial work) went private between 1995 and 2000.

    SEIU (the old Local 46), the engineers union, and to a lesser extent the
    lunchroom workers (who were organized into what is now UNITE HERE) fought bravely
    against that first wave of privatization, but lost. The key in those years was
    betrayal of the other unions by the teachers.

    The Chicago Teachers Union's leadership from the 1990s (under Tom Reece)
    praised the Daley administration as it privatized about half of the non-CTU jobs
    in the school system, busting or crippling the unions in the process. The
    United Progressive Caucus of the CTU had run the union from the early 1970s through
    the dramatic 2001 election (which put Debbie Lynch briefly into the
    presidency) and then came back into power in 2004 and has continued the betrayal since.
    Although the CTU survived with most of its membership intact into the early
    2000s (thanks to a large degree to Debbie Lynch's leading the fight against
    school closings and recreating the alliance of school union workers), once the
    United Progressive Caucus was back in power, the attacks on the teachers

    By law in Illinois, charter schools cannot be included in the CTU bargaining
    unit. So once Chicago got the green light from the UPC to massively privatize
    (by charterizing) in 2004, the results were quick and nasty. Between July 2004
    (when Debbie Lynch was ousted as CTU president) and today, the CTU membership
    had dropped from more than 35,000 to around 30,000, and by the end of this
    school year I would be surprised if it were above 30,000. Most of those jobs
    were lost to privatization through the closing of public schools and the opening
    (usually in the same building) of charter schools operated by EMOs.

    By the dawn of the 21st Century, the teachers were next, and the animus
    against the teachers because of the betrayal was deep among the other groups.
    (Remember: most of the custodial workers who had their jobs ripped from them were
    community residents whose children attended public schools).

    The privatization of entire schools (under the guise of flipping them into
    charter operators, for the most part) began in Chicago almost with the new
    century. The smokescreen was that the schools to be closed (and mostly privatized)
    were "failing" and that something drastic ("Shock Doctrine" stuff) had to be
    done to "save" the children in those schools.

    In Chicago, they have closed 40 public schools since Arne Duncan was
    appointed by Mayor Daley as "CEO" of CPS in 2001. That's the largest in history. Most
    of those buildings have been flipped into the hands of Charter school
    operators with no track record other than a "Mission Statement" and fancy Power Point

    At the December 19, 2007 Chicago Board of Education meeting, CPS suggested
    that another 75 schools would be closed in the next five years (at the rate of
    ten to 15 per year). This was "reported" in the Chicago Tribune (12/19/07) as a
    "news" story, even though it was really a calculated leak. Supposedly, these
    schools would be closed for a combination of "underutilization" and
    "underperformance." Both the list of the schools to be hit and the exact criteria have
    yet to be laid out to the public, but once the public hears -- via the
    corporate media echo chamber -- that the city is closing "failing" schools to "save"
    them, there is no further public discussion.

    This would be impossible in any city where there was accountability in school
    governance, such as where there was an elected school board.

    Additionally, Chicago has approved more than 60 charter school "campuses"
    since 2000, many of them in abandoned Catholic schools which are now being leased
    at public expense.

    The contradictions here are the most breathtaking, but as we've reported in
    Substance, we are simply in the vanguard of corporate "school reform" -- just
    as the destruction of the public housing for more than 100,000 black people in
    Chicago (most of them children) was the vanguard of "housing reform". And
    remember: both corporate "school reform" Chicago style and corporate "housing
    reform" began when Bill Clinton was President of the USA. And our mayor Richard M.
    Daley is also a "Democrat."

    And for those still starry eyed, Barack Obama (of whom I have hundreds of
    nice photographs, back from the days when he was one of us, and hanging out at
    meetings of the Chicago Teachers Union and other unions) supports Richard M.
    Daley's version of "school reform."

    So, yes...

    Privatization requires dictatorial control over the reins of power in the
    school system, as well as a compliant corporate media that ignores virtually all
    of the facts about what's taking place.

    And for an alternative you can still look to Los Angeles. When the mayor got
    himself caught up in that sex scandal, he was derailed (at least for a time)
    from his privatization projects and his move to take over the city's schools
    (based on the "Chicago" and "New York" models). I heard him speak at an
    Operation PUSH meeting two years ago, demanding mayoral control over the Los Angeles
    public schools, while Jesse Jackson and others say there an cheered wildly as
    he attacked "failing teachers" and "failing schools" (but not a failing
    capitalist system that has created the horrors that walk into our classrooms every

    George N. Schmidt
    Editor, Substance


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