Charter Schools Were Never a Good Idea. They Were a Corporate Plot All Along.

The Progressive

Charter schools are about stealing control of public education, enacting corporate welfare, engaging in union busting

Common Dreams - September 19, 2019

America has been fooled by the charter school industry for too long.

The popular myth that charter schools were invented by unions to empower teachers and communities so that students would have better options is as phony as a three dollar bill.

The concept always was about privatizing schools to make money.

It has always been about stealing control of public education, enacting corporate welfare, engaging in union busting, and an abiding belief that the free hand of the market can do no wrong.

Charter schools are, after all, institutions run privately but paid for with tax dollars. So operators can make all decisions behind closed doors without public input or accountability. They can cut student services and pocket the difference. And they can enroll whoever the heck they want without providing the same level of education or programs you routinely get at your neighborhood public school.

In essence, charter schools are a scheme to eliminate the public from public education paid for at public expense.

But whenever anyone brings up these facts, they are confronted by the bedtime story of Albert Shanker and his alleged advocacy of the industry.

So grab your teddy bear and put on your jammies, because here’s how it goes:

Once upon a time, hero president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Al Shanker had an idea. He wanted to make laboratory schools where educators would be freed of regulations so they could experiment and find new pedagogies that worked. Then these innovations could spread to the rest of the school system.

One day in 1988, he gave a speech at the National Press Club and subsequently published a column in the New York Times advancing this idea.

And he called it – Dum, Dum, DUM! – charter schools!

The second act of the story opens in the mid-1990s when Shanker had largely turned against the idea after it had been co-opted by business interests.

He dreamed of places where unionized teachers would work with union representatives on charter authorizing boards, and all charter proposals would include plans for “faculty decision-making.” But instead he got for-profit monstrosities that didn’t empower workers but busted their unions.

If only we’d stuck with Shanker’s bold dream!

Or at least, that’s how the story goes.

Unfortunately it’s just a story.

It’s not true. Hardly a word of it.

Shanker did not come up with the idea of charter schools. He wasn’t part of the plan to popularize them. He didn’t even come up with the term “charter school.”

If anything, he was a useful patsy in this stratagem who worked tirelessly to give teachers unions a seat at the table where he then discovered they were also on the menu.

The real origin of charter schools goes back decades to at least the 1950s and the far right push for deregulation.

When the afterglow of the atomic bomb and the allied victory in Europe had faded, there was political backlash at home to roll back the amazing economic successes of the New Deal. Social security, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, a minimum wage, job programs that put millions of people to work – all of that had to go in favor of right wing ideology.

A cabal of mostly wealthy, privileged elites wanted to do away with these policies in the name of the prosperity it would bring to themselves and their kind. They claimed it would be for the good of everyone but it was really just about enriching the already rich who felt entitled to all economic goods and that everyone else should have to fight over the crumbs.

Never mind that it was just such thinking that burst economic bubbles causing calamities like the Great Depression in the first place and made the conditions ripe for two world wars.

Show me the money!

However, this really didn’t go anywhere until it was combined with that most American of institutions – racism.

Even before the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board decision struck down school segregation, many white people said they’d never allow their children to go to school with black children.

In the South, several districts tried “freedom of choice” plans to allow white kids to transfer out of desegregated schools. ...
Read full report at Common Dreams

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