xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Don't Forget South Central: The Farce That Is the Public School Choice

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Farce That Is the Public School Choice

This commentary was written by Sergio Flores in response to KPCC's article on the L.A. Teacher Rallies we wrote about in the previous post. His analysis is right on the mark, and highlights the parts of the process (if not the entire process itself) that defy logic and reason.

Thank you, Sergio! Please email our blog so we can keep in touch with you at dontforgetsouthcentral@gmail.com.


For public school educators in Los Angeles, and California in general, the bidding for public schools in LAUSD has brought tragedy, shame, and a powerful warning to all other districts in the state. In a political atmosphere saturated with misinformation and false premises and promises, public schools are offered as if they were cast-off commodities to the best bidder. After years of living in unfair scrutiny and infamy, thousands of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities go through an ignominious path which leads most of them towards an even more uncertain future.

The LA Times reporter couldn’t have chosen a most adequate language to describe and give meaning to the news --the language of the free-market. If there ever was any teacher among us who believe the reformers premises of “choice” and “accountability,” this news and its wording exhibit the cold hard truth behind the rhetoric of the education reform: dismantling public education.

Thirty public schools are up for grabs; eighteen in a competitive political bid supervised by Superintendent Cortines. The bidders are groups of teachers and administrators, who are constrained by laws and are not liked by the Superintendent Cortines, versus the charter school operators, which are exempted from most of the laws, and Mayor Villaraigoza’s non-profit group.

This whole episode in the public schools saga is nothing but the same travesty employed by the reformers in order to distract everybody from the real (not so long term) goal of privatizing public education. Let’s be clear about it: empiric evidence and academic research show that the takeover of public schools has not given significant positive results. For that alone, this option would have to be discarded altogether.

If the reformers’ main point is to improve education by fostering more local power, the whole concepts of charter schools or mayoral control are unnecessary and ineffective. Public schools can achieve such goal for less money and without dividing the community or undermining democracy. It is absurd to correct the problems of a large school by creating “smaller” schools inside it. First of all, the division does not solve the problems; it just creates a selected and privileged group and another relegated to a default second class education. Secondly, this measure undermines the efforts to determine the real problems. Instead of finding the main causes of the problems in each school, stakeholders are busy trying to implement unproven formulas. Finally, the whole idea of improving schools by destroying them is plainly ludicrous. The trade of something real that can be improved for a fantasy does not even deserve consideration. It is ironic that reformers argue against public schools asking for empowerment of local communities and schools while proposing alternatives that divide them and remove their democratic fabric.

Who wins, who loses, who cares?

In solidarity
Sergio Flores
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