Different = Better? 2, Plus: SOS March

Jul 28, 2011 by

Since the full extent of the Abramson Charter School mess has come to light, there has been some more commentary on what it all means, complete with a side dish of weird coming from the CEO of the Pelican Foundation, which runs Abramson:

Tevfik Eski, who has declined several requests from The Times-Picayune for an interview on recent allegations made against Abramson, told Today’s Zaman [English-language newspaper in Istanbul] that the newspaper’s scrutiny of the school has raised fears of a terrorist attack there.

I now have the sinking feeling that if any sort of true regulation is placed on the charter schools, it won’t be out of concern for the students’ learning and retention of what they study, nor will it be in the service of attracting good teachers and getting them to stay for longer than the average Teach For America classroom fodder – it will be out of the seriously misguided and just plain wrong idea that Muslims will be taking over our public education system while certain states are already busy unconstitutionally banning sharia law. Can’t have that, now, can we? Bring on the oversight!

But what form should it take? Lance Hill wants us to go back a bit:

I think it is safe to assume that the anti-democracy privatizers will spin this scandal into an argument for a special appointed board to oversee charters. We have to be anticipate and refute that argument before it takes hold.

If anything, the Abramson scandal demonstrates how appointed oversight officials are not effective and cannot ensure quality education and safe schools. Their credibility and position is dependent on presenting a public image of success and integrity for the pro-charter special interest groups. The “charter czar” concept has proved to be a failure in terms of transparency and oversight, and any appointed “privy council” will fail for the same reasons. Only locally elected officials are accountable to the public that pays for and uses public education. Unlike appointed officials and boards, elected officials can be recalled or replaced by the public. In New Orleans, the only solution to charter corruption and inequality is to return oversight to the Orleans Parish School Board which has already proven to be a self-correcting institution….

…Finally, we need to end the practice of charters firing teachers at-will (without cause). Without a union, teachers fear reporting charter mismanagement, corruption, abuses and even alleged rapes. Absent union protections, we need state laws to protect teachers from retaliatory firings for simply criticizing charter management and practices. The charters want to fire teacher at-will because they believe any government regulation encroaches on their market prerogatives. It is impossible to have transparency in public education if teachers don’t have the right to speak their minds and act according to their conscience without fear of reprisals.

The notion that the elected government, and only the elected government, has the common good as it’s responsibility and mission needs to be made crystal clear. Market–driven organizations, be they for-profit or non-profit, are guided by the bottom line and the financial survival instinct–not the welfare of our children or the desire for equitable education opportunities.

Bracing myself for the inevitable horror-struck looks and virulent comments at Dr. Hill’s suggestions of returning oversight to the OPSB and getting the teachers unionized again…but chances are, I’ll be checking the tweets coming from the Save Our Schools conference, rally, and march being held in Washington D.C. this weekend, so I’ll be entering any discussion in the comments here a tad late. Talk amongst yourselves…

What IS this SOS March of which I speak?

The Save Our Schools March website is here.

Today is the beginning of the four-day conference at American University on the state of education today and what can be done to strengthen the role of teachers and of parents of students fighting against the privatization of public education and the proliferation of high-stakes testing. There’s already been a presentation of an element of a related art project to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and some of his high-ranking staffers, and although the conference is filled to the gills, the march is open to all and officially begins at noon on July 30th at the Ellipse on the National Mall in D.C. There is indeed some support for the march from teacher’s unions, but there are also plenty of concerned parents and other citizens not employed in public education who are supporting the march.

Follow the #SOSMarch hashtagged tweets for more, as well as @SOSMarch itself.

There will also be a live webcast of SOS March events this Saturday beginning at 11 AM CST.



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