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Over the weekend, I attended a board meeting of the Network for Public Education. Xian Barrett, a teacher in Chicago on the board, made a startlingly perceptive comment over lunch. He said to me, “The reformers are often right when they describe the problem, but they are always wrong when they offer a solution.”
You won’t find a better, clearer demonstration of this axiom than this post by Peter Greene.
Peter analyzes the “social justice” argument for charters and choice. Reformers are right, he says, when they charge that schools in poor communities are often grossly inadequate:
“Reformsters start here with the premise that non-wealthy non-white students must be rescued from the terrible schools that are inextricably tied to poor support, poor resources, poor staffing, poor neighborhoods, and the lousy local control that leads to all of these poor inputs.”
But their reforms save a few while making things far worse for the majority.
“This problem is even more damaging in schools that are already underfunded and under-resourced. Losing money to charter-choice systems just makes the troubled school that much more financially distressed. So to “rescue” these ten kids, we are going to make things even worse for the ones left behind.
“The charter-choice system, as currently conceived and executed, promises a possible maybe rescue for some students while making the vast majority of non-white non-wealthy students pay for it, while simultaneously lulling policy makers into thinking that the problem is actually being solved, all in a system that allows charter operators to conduct business without being answerable to anyone.
“The problem (see First Part) is real. The solution being inflicted on public education is making things worse, not better. It is making some folks rich and providing excellent ROI for hedge funders, but neither of those outcomes exactly equals a leap forward in social justice. There’s a whole argument to be had about charter booster motives; I figure that some are in it because they believe it will work better and some are in it because they believe it’s the last great untapped well-spring of tax dollars. Ultimately, their motivation isn’t as important as this: their solution will not actually solve anything.”
Blogger and retired teacher G.F. Brandenburg wrote–after reading this post–that Peter Greene “may be the best blogger in America.”