Archive for August, 2018

What’s Up with Charters Now?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Did you know that even in San Francisco in 1850, just after California had submitted documents to Congress to become a state – a free state, the Afro-American journalist J. Holland Townsend wrote about the efforts of San Francisco’s small black community to fight against pro-slavery officials who wanted to exclude one of its top students from the city high school because of her race? In his argument he said, “a common school system educates all sons and daughters alike.” See The African American Press.

And that’s the argument still today in 2018 – should not any school – public neighborhood, charter, private, parochial, magnet, inter-district choice, intra-district choice, conventional voucher, tax-credit voucher, educational savings account voucher, home schooling – be a high-quality choice for any son or daughter?

Think about New Orleans, Louisiana, where all schools are charter since Hurricane Katrina. From the Netroots Nation Conference, August 2-4, 2018, at a session titled “Hurricane Lessons: What We’ve Learned From Post-Katrina Disaster Capitalism in NOLA Schools,” parents feel they have little voice; the schools neglect the most disadvantaged student; teachers are treated as dispensable and part-time; and families are not guaranteed access to neighborhood public schools. Instead, the administrators used an investment strategy, closing schools or handing them to charter school management groups.

Found in twelve major cities, an organization called Journey for Justice Alliance, with concerns about education opportunities for all students, drives each community to tackle district school closures and privatization – especially where minority students like Afro-Americans and Latinos are most affected.

Similarly, Joe Mathews, in Zócalo/Public Square, an on-line journal, addresses the problem for California schools in “California Sticks Its Schoolkids’ Futures in a Vice.” Although California is in no way like the complete breakdown in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane, money is a major reason that California is not credibly pursuing strategies to make all schools high-quality schools from which to choose.

Teacher retirement benefit costs and obligations are escalating. The California birth rate is going down which means fewer students even though funding is available at a higher level. Pressure builds to use money measures to address social problems like a shortage of college graduates, the inequality in schools and districts that leave poorer students lagging academically, and issues of equity and discipline. Dysfunction remains with the longtime complex tax system from Prop 13 and education funding formula from Prop 98. Until the legislature takes on revision of those two measures, students will be stuck in a mess.

On the plus side, a proposal from Unite LA and UCLA/IDEA titled “We Choose ALL: Building a System of Excellent Public Education” looks at the education fiscal problems in the state and supports the idea that there is “no real choice unless each child has a high-quality neighborhood public school among the choices available.” Dr. Sylvia Rousseau, USC. She advocates the community school as the best chance to reach all the stakeholders, labor, and philanthropists affected by educational opportunity.

Of the eleven educators contributing to the proposal, none are for or against charter schools, but concerned about the long-term changes from the original idea of a charter to introduce a place where the student not successful in his/her other school may find success in the innovative plan of a particular charter.

To overcome the problems stated above in New Orleans charter schools, the the proposal advocates a sense of public purpose – that any school must develop student citizens that learn to collaborate, not compete only.

In addition, any school that a parent chooses for their child must support the child’s welfare, early childhood education, equitable funding for high-quality teaching, well-prepared and supported teachers, and a school organized for in-depth student and teacher learning.

As a philanthropist, basketball player LeBron James is establishing I Promise School in his hometown Akron, Ohio. A community-based school design, it opens right now, Fall 2018. Unfortunately, each school doesn’t have a philanthropist like Mr. James, but the Unite LA/UCLA IDEA proposal has been taken up by the California State Department of Education.

The hope is that the entire state can benefit, fiscally, academically, and civilly by changes in the way to make the parent’s and student’s choice of school, one of many, all high-quality.