Do you think the “school choice” alliance between KIPP, TFA and DeVos acolytes is unusual or expected? Also, have you ever had a public or private debate and someone says something that is really not true? Have you ever laid a trap for someone in a discussion?
Well, the Berks County Community Foundation invited several guests to Reading, PA to have a “Consider It” conversation about “school choice.”
They invited two choice proponents and two choice critics. This of course is opposite of what the Harvard University Kennedy School is doing tonight— which is providing a voice to only one side of the “choice” debate for Betsy DeVos— not incidentally the Kennedy school program was funded by the Koch brothers and the Gates Foundation. You can read more about that event Harvard Program on Choice: Protest Expected, Funders Hide Their Names
I have never been one to shy away from taking on school choice proponents. Here are a few examples from my YouTube School Choice Debates playlist.
I believe there were two primary reasons why the Reading debate occurred. First, the local district attempted to close down a Reading charter chain for low performance. The charter did not want to close for low performance and instead took the local authorizer to court. They have now spent nearly a half of million dollars battling in courtroom whether the charter should be closed. Second, Pennsylvania has one of the most unequal funding systems in the United States. So much so that there will be an upcoming school finance trial (See Good News! Pennsylvania Supreme Court Gives OK to Trial about School Funding!)
So, without further ado, here is the Reading Consider It debate. Below the debate, I have included my opening remarks as prepared, but not necessarily as delivered. You’ll have to watch the video to see the trap that I laid (with cheese) in the discussion.
Many states have lifted caps on the number of charter schools contained within the original state legislation, owing in part to millions of dollars in financial incentives created by federal grant programs.
Funding encouraging charter growth has also poured in from state grant programs and funding from private foundations, especially the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The American Federation for Children, represented here tonight by Alyson Miles, and was formerly chaired by Betsy DeVos, has also been in the mix.
In fact, Donald Trump has pledged to spend 20 billion charter schools and vouchers.
The selection of Betsy DeVos, signals that 45 is serious about privatizing public education and turning it into a profit center.
Many in the civil rights community have become very concerned about a lack of transparency and accountability for charters schools culminating in the Movement for Black Lives, Journey For Justice and the NAACP calling for a charter school moratorium last year.
What are the concerns in the civil right community? Last year’s NAACP resolution got allot of attention, but I think it important to understand that our nation’s vanguard organization for civil rights has been concerned about charters for quite some time.
In 2010, the NAACP passed a resolution that said,
“Charter schools draw funding away from already underfunded traditional public schools”
This is certainly an issue here in Reading and in PA considering the way traditional charter schools and cyber charters are funded.
In 2014, the NAACP passed a resolution that said,
- The NAACP “opposes the privatization of public schools.”
- The NAACP “opposes public money for-profit public schools.”
- Opposes “the redirect of monies from public schools to charter schools.”
Again, all certainly issues here in PA.
Then in 2016, because charter proponents have been largely unwilling in PA and many other states to pass transparency and accountability for charter schools, the NAACP called for a moratorium.
Now I want to tell you about the 2017 NAACP resolution you may not have heard about yet.
More than sixty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Brown vs. Board of Education decision to abolish the separate but equal legal doctrine and Jim Crow segregation by race.
In the summer of 2017, 2,000 NAACP national convention delegates passed a new resolution entitled Public and Charter Schools Fulfilling the Promise of Brown v. Board that decries the segregation of African American students into under-resourced public schools and charters.
The intensification of segregation in charters is especially important for the African American community because a new report by the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education found that one in eight African American students in the United States now attends a charter school.
A national research study found that charter schools are “more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation.” A big problem with school choice is that “Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools.” which “helps to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.”
The same study found that choice was also bad for achievement on average as, “the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of African America students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left.”
Which is where we must talk about the achievement data in PA.
What is actual data on charters in PA? Honestly, the policymakers in Harrisburg should be ashamed. The bottom line is the traditional public schools outperform charter schools on average across the state.
Here is the data.
I think the NAACP said it best in their 2010 resolution,
“NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children, instead of focusing attention, funding, and policy advocacy on improving existing, low performing public schools and will work through local, state and federal legislative processes to ensure that all public schools are provided the necessary funding, support and autonomy necessary to educate all students”
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A few photos from the event