If the loudening rhetorical theatrics calling for more charter schools (or the circumcision of a “charter cap”) have yet to insult your intelligence, it may be a mere matter of minutes until you hear some putz—probably of the optimistic, naive, and obnoxious privileged suburbanite variety—feign concern for poor and minority children whose families queue on endless wait lists for a chance to escape the public school gauntlet.
When confronted with this propaganda, one might instinctively point out that such apprehensiveness is transparently fraudulent, since the sentiment so obviously fails to account for the majority of youth that will remain stranded in public mire as the charter apparatus metastasizes. What about those kids? As traditional ed defender Diane Ravitch explained all the way back in 2010, in her prophetic and kryptonic review of the popular documentary Waiting for “Superman,” the underlying pro-charter narrative is essentially contrived scripture in which teachers are cast as diabolical greed mongers:
Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, if teachers’ unions wielded as much power as their opponents claim, the state wouldn’t be sprinting toward privatization. The reality is that Governor Charlie Baker, while seemingly cool-headed if not downright liberal on some other issues, is a shamelessly conservative post-voucher apostle on schools. Baker has such little regard for traditional ed that he appointed Paul Sagan, a venture capitalist with no teaching or school administration experience, to chair the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Think about that; would the governor tap a principal or teacher to advise the Department of Revenue?
The fix is on. It’s too late for the copout claim that “the charter school issue is complicated.” Everybody needs to clean the shit out of their eyes and see that cutthroat profit-driven corporate interests calculated every inch of astroturf propping the current crop of increasingly callous charter crusaders, from corner store window ads to cable commercials, clean across the Commonwealth. Fortunately, with a National Week of Action on School Pushout underway through October 11, there is an arsenal of helpful data and resources available with which one might silence the pro-charter cacophony:
- The Massachusetts Teachers Association has a handy map detailing the dollars that Bay State “communities will lose to one or more Commonwealth charter schools in fiscal year 2016.” In Boston alone, regular elementary and secondary public schools lose more than $120 million to charters annually. Statewide, that number tops the $400 million mark.
- The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch has an interactive map and informational compendium of 2,500 closed charter schools. From their findings: “in the 2011-2012 school year, charter school students ran two and half times the risk of having their education disrupted by a school closing and suffering academic setbacks as a result of closure.”
- Also worth perusing is the “State of School Discipline,” an eye-popping report by the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights. Found in there: “a significant number of charter schools, particularly those in the Boston area, had high discipline rates. Roxbury Preparatory Charter suspended 6 out of every 10 students out-of-school at least once.” And so on ..
You don’t have to take our word for it. Anyone who thinks the corporate charter movement arcs toward success or equality is encouraged to join Youth on Board, a Boston-based empowerment and leadership incubator, on Thursday, October 8, when young people will share their stories—at bus stops and train stations citywide—about slapdash zero tolerance policies in charter systems. Forget Waiting for “Superman.” If any documentary title describes the National Week of Action on School Pushout, it’s An Inconvenient Truth.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.