I am not able to blog as much as I have in the past because of my faculty responsibilities at California State, public speaking engagements and contributing behind the scenes to game-changing projects. One of the game-changing projects that I have worked on over the past several months was the NEA Charter Taskforce. As the token academic on the taskforce, I travelled to taskforce meetings several times over the past six months or so. Here is a shot of the taskforce members sent to me by a NEA RA delegate from the floor (I didn’t circle me).
Why is the statement from the NEA important now? Mike Petrilli recently argued in USAToday that education reform has been “mainstream” movement over the past 15 years. During the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Lamar Alexander essentially made the same argument on behalf of vouchers and charters. Education reformer’s goals are far from mainstream, they are in fact sea-changing neoliberal ideals for private control of education. I believe what is happening is that supporters of democratic control of public schools are realizing this insidious goal and are now taking a critical look at school choice. The public is becoming more and more aware that the arguments that underly the various private-control and privatzatition school choice approaches are red herrings. Even Last Week Tonight has taken notice.
The key issue in our schools has been and continues to be severe inequality in schools that is perpetrated on purpose. Furthermore, the outcry against the privatization and private control of our schools via charters and vouchers has gathered steam as communities have asked to choose from democratically-controlled alternatives— and privatizers have refused.
Back to the NEA vote.
The statement that was originally designed and submitted by the taskforce was amended today at the RA. I was getting texts live from the floor of the RA and was concerned about some of the proposed amendments. However, most that made it through in my view made the statement on charters from America’s educators stronger.
See the final approved statement here: https://ra.nea.org/nea-policy-statement-charter-schools/
For example, I think the call for a moratorium from the BATs is important because many choice supporters continue to deflect and ignore important critiques. Additionally, the moratorium amendment echoes and supports the resolution passed by the NAACP at our national convention last year.
Here is an excerpt from the official press release:
The new policy statement lays out three criteria that charter schools must meet to provide students with the support and learning environments they deserve:
- Charter schools must be authorized and held accountable by the local school board as only a local, democratically accountable authorizing entity can ensure that a charter is actually needed to meet student needs in a way that other alternatives available to the district could not, and only a local authorizer can monitor charter performance on an ongoing basis to ensure accountability and spread charter innovations to other public schools.
- The charter school must demonstrate that it is necessary to meet the needs of the students in the district, and they must meet those needs in a manner that improves the local public school system.
- The charter school must comply with the same basic safeguards as other public schools. This includes open meetings and public records laws, prohibitions against for-profit operations or profiteering, and the same civil rights, employment, labor, health and safety laws and staff qualification and certification requirements as other public schools.
Charter schools that do not meet these criteria do more harm than good to students, neighborhood public schools, and the cause of public education.
I believe that the NEA RA statement on charters is a big step in the right direction for our national discourse about the privatization and private-control of our education system. Fomenting democracy and education on the 4th of July! What could be more patriotic!!!
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