Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Resistance Grows: GEM News and CAPE Press Release

GEM finally met some members of Brooklyn-based CAPE at the GEM meeting on July 14. And a group from PS 123 in Harlem. Kismet.

GEM formed committees – a Brooklyn-based committee to fight charter school invasions in that borough and an ATR/Teacher Reassignment Center committee to address those concerns. Also a Harlem-based group to focus on PS 123, the school being invaded by Moskowitz' Harlem Success virus. There were reps from other schools in Harlem dealing with charter schools.

Contact GEMNYC@gmail for details. Or check the GEM or Ed Notes blogs for details of meetings.

Here is the CAPE press release, which could serve as a bible for the resistance

CAPE: Concerned Advocates for Public Education

Educators and Parents Organize to Protect and Preserve Public Education

“The Bloomberg administration’s long-term goal is to cut the number of public schools in half and double the number of charter schools.” This claim was recently made in a Helen Zelon article quoting long time administrators and DOE officials. It is a claim that is quite disturbing and has motivated a group of educators and parents to organize for the protection and preservation of public schools and public education.

This group, Concerned Advocates for Public Education, seeks to lend their voice to the education policy and reform debate, a voice that has been marginalized and silenced, a trend that we will stand for no longer.

We see public education and public schools as a civic practice, a human right, and the pillar of our democracy. Any policy or ideology that threatens our ability and our right to provide free, fair, and quality public education for our children must be addressed. All too often, especially during the tenure of the Bloomberg administration, parent and educator voices have been silenced in the education reform movement and in terms of policy in general. This silencing has subordinated the voices of the stakeholders in education in favor of the voices of lawyers, corporations, and those most privileged in our society. The perspectives of those whom these policies impact the most are absent and there is no substitute for our perspective. If our voices are not welcomed in the current climate of education reform and policy, we will not be complicit nor will we fight against it, instead we will fight for what we know to be best for our children and we will not be intimidated or undermined by an ideology or administration who insults and threatens those who disagree with them.

At the center of the fight to protect and preserve public education is the Bloomberg administration’s obsession with charter schools. This is not simply a discussion about the merit of charter schools; there is a place in education for any school possibility that opens a door for children. However, we do not believe that this administration’s charter school agenda serves children in any other capacity other than to divert money away from public schools and strain and stress public schools by forcing them to share space with charter schools setting up unfair and unbalanced corporate-style competition. Furthermore, the kinds of charter schools this administration promotes deprofessionalizes the teaching profession through its privilege of prescriptive programs and inexperienced teachers, their militaristic style of discipline and procedures, the silencing and victimization of parents and communities by forcing these schools into areas without due process and community involvement, and the racial implications of targeting minority areas therefore weakening community public schools and marginalizing those who are already most marginalized in our society. This agenda does not promote critical thinking. This agenda does not promote the whole child. This agenda does not promote thoughtful, democratic citizenry. This agenda does promote the systematic deterioration of our public school system in favor of a system that will segregate and underserve our neediest students.

The Bloomberg administration will argue that public schools have been failing our neediest children for years and that teachers and unions do not want competition and simply want to avoid change. Parents and educators are frankly insulted by these claims. While it is true that some public schools have been failing our students, blanket claims are erroneous and dangerous and are the kind of propaganda that promotes extreme executive control and power and disempowers citizen voice and perspective. There are many examples of exemplary public schools that serve underserved populations and have been doing it for years. If the intention is to improve education in the neediest areas, why not access existing successful schools and use their models, techniques, and expertise in a real reform agenda? This administration promotes claims of the success of charter schools, often using test scores as evidence. The scores are not comparable to public schools as they represent a lower number of students in special education, English Language Learners, and our most challenging students who charter schools often discharge at will and send back to public schools. This is a shell game aimed at privatizing education. It comes from a free market mentality that serves the capitalist agenda, but when did capitalism move from an economic philosophy to a social philosophy? There is no place in education, the largest and most important social policy and structure we have in this country, for this kind of corporate ideology that we have seen frankly fail economically in the last year and will certainly fail when it comes to educating our most valuable asset in a democracy: our children.

The second claim, again political propaganda, that seeks to subvert teachers’ unions is simply a power grab and flatly false. Teachers and their unions are by no means a perfect body, but the large majority dedicate their lives fighting for what is best for children and schools and to insinuate that they only want to protect themselves, at the expense of children, is cynical and disingenuous. To further suggest that the solution is to insert business minded folks and inexperienced teachers as a means to best educate our students is simply ridiculous. The Bloomberg administration has an expertise in marketing, but even the best marketing cannot continue to sell a product that is faulty and based on a premise that defies truth and logic.

If you want solid evidence for all of the above claims, make the trip to Red Hook, Brooklyn. There you will find a gem of a school, P.S. 15, nestled in one the largest housing projects in Brooklyn that is a AAA school, has some of the highest test scores in the city, offers a wide range of intervention, enrichment, and health and social services, and has some of the most dedicated administrators, teachers, and staff you could ever hope to find. This school, a successful, well established, corner stone in one our most needy communities is being threatened with a takeover from one of Bloomberg’s hand selected charter schools, PAVE Academy. This charter was placed in P.S. 15’s building, is crippling their ability to best serve their children, and has announced plans to stay put for years to come even though the community, who fought against them coming in the first place, was guaranteed that they would only stay two years. The intent here is clear, push out a successful public school and replace it with a charter school. This does not support an agenda that supposedly addresses claims of what is best for children and communities by closing unsuccessful schools. It does support and highlights an agenda rooted in a clear obsession charter schools as a way to undermine and destroy our public education system.

Concerned Advocates for Public Education seeks to bring an authentic voice to the current policy and reform movement in education. To contact us please email us at or visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

For Immediate Release: Any information provided here may be published on behalf of CAPE.

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