Charter School Lobby Silent as Charter Teachers Continue Strike

www.usnews.com

 

Charter school teachers in Chicago are in their fourth day of a strike.

 

Yet I wonder why the leaders of the charter movement are quiet.

 

Where is Peter Cunningham of the Education Post?

 

Where is Shaver Jeffries of Democrats for Education Reform?

 

Not a word from Campbell Brown or Michelle Rhee?

 

Nothing from Bill Gates, Cory Booker, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?

 

Not a peep from Betsy DeVos or Donald Trump?

 

This is a historic moment. Teachers at various charter schools have unionized before, but it has never come to an outright strikenot once since the federal charter school law was established in 1994.

 

You’d think the charter cheerleaders – the folks who lobby for this type of school above every other type – would have something to say.

 

But no.

 

They are conspicuously silent.

 

I wonder why.

 

Could it be that this is not what they imagined when they pushed for schools to be privately run but publicly financed?

 

Could it be that they never intended workers at these schools to have any rights?

 

Could it be that small class size – one of the main demands of teachers at the 15 Acero schools – was never something these policymakers intended?

 

It certainly seems so.

 

For decades we’ve been told that these types of schools were all about innovation. They were laboratories where teachers and administrators could be freed from the stifling regulations at traditional public schools.

 

Yet whenever wealthy operators stole money or cut services to maximize profits or engaged in shady real estate deals or collected money for ghost children or cherry picked the best students or fomented “no excuses” discipline policies or increased segregation or denied services to special education kids or a thousand other shady business practices – whenever any of that happened, we were told they were just unfortunate side effects. Malfeasance and fraud weren’t what charters were all about. They were about the children.

 

And now when charter teachers speak out and demand a better environment for themselves and their students, these ideologues have nothing to say.

 

Funny.

 

It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on here.

 

The latest audit of Acero shows they have $10 million a year in additional revenue that they aren’t spending on the students. Yet they’re cutting the budget by 6 percent annually. Meanwhile, Acero’s CEO Richard Rodriguez is taking home more than $260,000 for overseeing 15 schools while Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson makes slightly less money for managing more than 500 schools.

 

If the school privatization lobby cared about kids, it shouldn’t be hard to come out against Acero and in favor of these teachers and students.

 

But nothing.

 

Silence.

 

It seems to prove what charter critics have been saying all along – and how full of crap the privatization lobby has always been.

 

In short, the charter movement is all about the rich getting richer. It has never been about helping students and families.

 

Well, maybe it was once upon a time when union leader Albert Shanker backed the plan. But even he turned against it when he saw how it enriched the moneymen and corporations while doing very little for children.

 

 

The fact of the matter is that the only people at charters on the side of teachers, parents and students are the people generally associated with opposing them.

 

I, myself, am a huge foe of school privatization in all its forms – and that includes school vouchers and charter schools.

 

However, I have nothing against charter students, parents or teachers.

 

I know many educators who’ve worked at charters. In most cases they are dedicated, caring professionals who’d rather work at a traditional public school but had to settle for employment where they could find it even if that meant less pay, longer hours, and fewer rights.

 

I know many parents who sent their kids to charter schools because of funding inequalities or rampant high stakes testing at traditional public schools. In every case, they are doing the best they can for their children – navigating a system they hate looking for the best opportunities.

 

I’ve taught many students who’ve gone to charter schools and then returned to my traditional public school classroom disillusioned from their subpar experience in privatized education. Without exception they are great kids who try their hardest to succeed despite huge deficits from the years lost at charters.

 

These people are not our enemy. We are their allies.

 

We are pushing for a better education system for all of us. And this strike is part of that.

 

If the operators of Acero charter schools in Chicago (formerly UNO’s charter schools) agree to a living wage for teachers and lower class sizes, it sets a standard for the industry. It helps push other charters to do the same. It pushes charter schools to become more like traditional public schools. And that’s a good thing.

 

The amenities at traditional public schools should not be rarities.

 

Every school should have an elected school board. Every school should have public meetings, transparency and be accountable for how it spends tax dollars. Every school should have to accept the kids living in its borders and provide them the proper services and respect their rights. Every school should treat its employees like professionals and pay them a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

 

Ultimately, I think this means the end of the charter school concept. But that doesn’t have to mean the end of all these charter schools. Many of them that can operate effectively and efficiently should become traditional public schools. That may mean incorporation into existing districts or creations of new ones. It may mean additional funding from the state and federal government.

 

In the case of fly-by-night charters that do nothing but enrich their investors while cheating kids out of an education, they should be closed immediately and the persons responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (whatever that is, if at all possible).

 

I don’t have all the answers, and what’s right in one neighborhood may be wrong in another. However, I am confident that there is a solution.

 

No matter how this strike is resolved, the fact that it exists – and is probably a precursor to more such strikes – points the way to a brighter future for everyone.

 

It’s a victory for workers over wealth.

 

And that is a victory for students, too.


 

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18 thoughts on “Charter School Lobby Silent as Charter Teachers Continue Strike

  1. I like this article particularly because it is an eye opening message about a local issue with national relevance. “These people (charter schools’ teachers, students, and parents) are not our enemy. We are their allies.” I find important and necessary the shameful light exposing the charter school movement –proponents, defenders, and apologists. I would say public schools and the crowd at charter schools are not allies, not yer. But, we all are certainly victims of this elaborate hoax.
    We are victims because we were misinformed and duped. Whatever the original idea was about charter schools, that has not materialized. The charter schools’s record in the past twenty years has proven these schools are not laboratories of innovation, cheaper, or a loyal competition that would promote a motivation for public schools to improve, as presented by the corporate reformers. Yet, we are supposed to be divided while waiting for those promised outcomes.
    We all are victims because we were told that charter school were the solution to a critical and chronic problem. However, the record in these past years has shown that the charter school movement has not only failed as solving any problem. Instead, charter schools have created a myriad of new problems for the institution of public education.In particular ans aside from the financial and logistic problems, these problems related to labor and working conditions that affect students expose a most disturbing and real reason for charter schools — the greed of some opportunistic individuals at the public school system expense.
    Who wins, who loses, who cares?
    In solidarity,
    Sergio Flores

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the insights, Sergio. I suppose anyone fighting for an authentic education for children, not profiteers, is on the same side. The great divide here has never been between us and the people who work at or who are enrolled at charter schools. It’s between us and the people who operate them – often at a profit for their own ends.

      Like

  2. I think they are ignoring the teachers strike waiting and counting on it to go away and be forgotten so they can get on with their agenda to take over the United States and create an autocratic theo-kleptocracy.

    Like

  3. Steven, I appreciate your perspective and acknowledgment that charter school students, parents and teachers are not the enemy. In addition to having an elected school board, I would suggest allowing for a teacher majority school board and/or a teacher powered school like is allowed in Minnesota. Giving the ownership of running the school to the teachers eliminates the potential for profiteering.

    Like

    • Peter,

      While I think that teacher powered schools would be excellent, that would mean that they are not be democratically controlled. Democratic control of schools is a touchstone for many on this blog.

      Like

      • Ah, having teachers in charge in a school district with an elected school board doesn’t mean the teachers can break the law and defy the school board.

        Teachers would be in charge of what to teach and how to teach it while the elected school board monitors to make sure the teachers are not abusing their responsibility as professionals.

        Liked by 1 person

      • A good point; yet perhaps by discourse we can arrive at changes which fine tune our education system. Teachers do need more autonomy and yet democratic principles need to be in place.

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    • It’s an intriguing idea, Peter. I like the idea of teachers running the day-to-day operations, but I think it’s important parents and the community have a say in decisions at the board level,

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      • Steven, totally agree parents and community members also need to have a place on the elected school board. Having a strong authorizer with statutory requirements for oversight of the charter school is also very important.

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  4. The investors and others who push charters do a really great job of selling charter schools, and some times indeed the problems at public schools drive some parents to seek other other means of educating their children. Charters seemed like a great option until I started reading the other side of the story.
    Indeed as you say those who work at charter schools need to work also. It is good to see that they are expressing their dissatisfaction with the work conditions they find at their schools since it shows that we human beings need to work in conditions which promote well being. It also shows they did not lose their voices by working at charters. It really gives hope, that the very rich do not have the power they think they have.

    Like

    • The problems at public schools that drive some parents to seek other other means of educating their children was created by the same greedy pirates pushing for publicly funded, private sector charter schools..

      This all started back in 1983 when President Reagan released his flawed and fraudulently misleading report called “A Nation at Risk.”

      This was the beginning of the top-down manipulation of the public schools with the goal of creating those problems.

      The next big blow was NCLB followed by all the top-down Common Core crap that came with high stakes rank and punish tests.

      Following the destruction caused by “A Nation at Risk”, NCLB, Common Core, came The Every Student Succeeds Act — all designed to sow more problems in public schools creating the fake environment that drives some parents to seek other means of education their children.

      Liked by 1 person

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