Many recall the ominous words from the “A Nation At Risk” report. It stated that if an “unfriendly foreign power” had attempted to force America’s education system to perform as it currently was in 1983, it would have been viewed “as an act of war.” It went on to say, “We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.”
Written in over 30 years ago, the report criticized America’s lack of focus on educational achievement. But the words ring true today, only this time we are not “unthinking” but purposely disarming our public educational system. Every time someone encourages “privatization” of schools, charter schools, or school choice they are hurting America. Why? Because they are supporting the removal of every citizen’s democratic right and obligation to govern and direct the education of America’s youth.
In Illinois, every school district has seven elected school board members to govern it. Board members are local residents who care about their community’s children and schools. They understand that schools make a positive difference in their community. When I was superintendent, the monthly school board meeting would rotate between each school. Parents and community members would attend these meetings and offer up their comments and suggestions during Public Participation. You can’t get any closer to the democratic process than that – constituents telling their elected officials what they thought. This right is being purposefully taken away.
Charter schools do not have locally elected board members. Many charter schools are now part of state-wide or national chains of schools whose governance is determined by a corporate board, who live hundreds or thousands of miles away from the community the charter school serves. These corporate board members probably don’t know anything about the communities each of their charter schools serve, what is important to parents there, or what the needs of the community are.
When a city, like New Orleans did, turns over its entire school system to charter schools, here’s what it is in effect saying:
- We don’t care what our kids are learning.
- Let someone else worry about educating ‘those’ kids.
- It’s too much effort to figure out how to finance our kids’ education so we’ll let somebody else do it.
- We don’t have the will to work with the teachers’ union so let’s send the kids to schools where there are no teachers’ unions.
Is that what we want, not be be bothered with deciding how to educate America’s children? Abdicating your right to educate America’s children is like letting a foreign country take over the minds of America’s children. But in this case it’s not a foreign country taking over, it’s corporate America.
More and more, charter schools are being seen by people outside of the community as money-makers. What they care about is what profit they can wring from each student enrolled. In order to do so they influence state legislators and members of congress to pass laws removing local control of schools from elected school board members. They want laws changed so they can operate outside of the rules public schools must follow (it’s cheaper that way). They want to take away your right to govern schools so it is easier for them to make a profit.
Note: This is Part 2 in a series about Charter Schools. See Part 1 here.