Though I don’t have children, the growth of the charter school movement is one I follow because I’m going to be living with its fruits, and it seems of a piece with the general privatization push, i.e. the selling of the commons to entities under no obligation to provide any quality of service but rather obliged to turn a profit.
Two articles below mention clauses in teachers’ contracts that are typically used to constrain employees — NDC, non-competes, and mandatory arbitration — and which are also discussed in the movie I mentioned yesterday, Hot Coffee (also available for a small fee on Amazon Prime). I’ll nudge you again to check it out.
Per Wikipedia, Diane Ravitch is “a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development,” but she’s also been an invaluably dogged critic and chronicler of the charter school racket. Her piece posted below from the NYRB, “When Public Goes Private, as Trump Wants,” is just the latest part of an important inquiry into the motivations for and ramifications of mass-privatization of a public institution.
At the end are two articles covering the rise of private schools in the post-Jim Crow era as a direct counter to public desegregation, and the effects of current de facto segregation. I should note that I did find a thesis online that traces the rise of Christian Academies in the American South back to the 1920’s, but — contra the candidate’s thesis statement — that evidence doesn’t actually exclude the idea that they were used to circumvent desegregation in the 60’s.
The Choices Charters Hate
This also highlights the hypocrisy behind the charter choice arguments. Choice is great– when it’s the choice they like. The free market is great– as long as it’s serving them. But when it comes to staff, charters like Mystic Valley have taken steps to avoid any kind of market forces to come into play. Rather than compete for teachers by offering attractive employment terms, Mystic Valley tries to make sure that their teachers have no choice at all, to force them to stay by coercion and extortion.
Fining Teachers for Switching Schools
The Covenant Keepers Charter School in Little Rock, Arkansas, requires its teachers to not disclose “trade secrets” and to agree to not work for any “business or activity in competition with the charter school” for two years after leaving, in “any area in which the Employer currently solicits or conducts business, and/or any area in which an Employer plans to solicit or conduct business.” The teacher also has to agree to pay liquidated damages in the amount of “$100,000 plus court costs, litigation expenses, and actual and reasonable attorneys’ fees” if the non-compete or confidentiality agreement is breached.
When Public Goes Private, as Trump Wants: What Happens?
Today, there are about seven thousand publicly funded, privately managed charter schools, enrolling nearly three million students. Some are run for profit. Some are online schools, where students sit at home and get their lessons on a computer. Some operate in shopping malls. Some are run by fly-by-night characters hoping to make money. Charters open and close with disturbing frequency; from 2010 to 2015, more than 1,200 charters closed due to academic or financial difficulties, while others opened.
Building Firewalls: Protecting Public Schools in the Trump Era
This is a good time to remind ourselves that public education has always been – and will continue to be – the obligation of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This obligation is embedded in the guarantee of a public education in state constitutions. It is the states, not the federal government, that control access, quality, governance, student rights and the bulk of funding for their public education systems.
The New School Segregation
Some affluent and predominantly white suburban municipalities in the South are threatening to reverse this progress. They are doing so by seceding from racially diverse county-based school districts and forming their own predominately white and middle-class school districts. The secessions are grounded in the race-neutral language of localism, or the preference for decentralized governance structures. However, localism in this context is threatening to do what Brown v. Board of Education outlawed: return schools to the days of separate and unequal with the imprimatur of state law.
In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong
According to one narrative, white leaders and residents starved the public schools of necessary resources after decamping for the academy, an institution perpetuated by racism. According to the opposing narrative, malfeasance and inept leadership contributed to the downfall of the public schools, whose continued failings keep the academy system alive.