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Andre Perry was one of the earliest charter school leaders in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and one of the few leaders of color. He became disillusioned with some parts of the reforms, especially the marginalization of local community voices.
In this article, he calls out reformers who feel they must distance themselves from Trump because of his comments that stirred racism. Perry said the same reformers are quietly pleased that the incoming administration will enlarge and enrich the charter sector.
“Playing the politics of niceness has never been so convenient for the Dems of education reform. DeVos’s belief in limited state oversight, for-profit charter management and vouchers didn’t give Democrat proponents of charter schools any pause in the past. And for many it doesn’t now.
“As the chief architect of education reform in Michigan, DeVos should take blame for doing no favors to struggling public schools in Detroit and the rest of the state. Michigan is a prime example of what not to do in education reform. Her failing creation of a wide-open market is a case study in why there should be limits on school choice.
“However, the inability of reform-leaning Democrats to renounce DeVos and her policies in the past reveals a complicity in her nomination. Authentic Democratic notions of accountability simply don’t jibe with Republican ideals of choice. You also don’t have to be cozy with your opponents to accomplish your policy goals. But for the reward of charter schools, certain Democrats have abandoned their party’s principles and muzzled their opposition to Republican policies in education and beyond.
“Young people don’t live wholly in schools; they live in communities. If Democrat reformers want children to live in nurturing communities and not just charter schools, they must move beyond myopic quid pro quo politics.
“Democrats can no longer afford to wittingly miss the forest for the charter school trees.
“Will Dems fight voucher policies, which have been shown to be largely ineffective, and harmful in some cases, to an extent that makes the Secretary uncomfortable? Will Dems push for the kind of accountability that would put a moratorium on the loose and deleterious system of charters in DeVos’ home state of Michigan?
“I look forward to Democrats divorcing themselves from a relationship of convenience with Republicans, who have elevated what a school choice proponent really looks like in DeVos. Real dissent from Democrats should equate to aggressively limiting DeVos’s policies, which have included restricting state oversight, promoting for-profit charter management organizations and encouraging vouchers for private schools including those that are faith-based.
“Philosophically, Democrats shouldn’t believe in this kind of school choice.”