Over the last few years the buzz words for the anti-education crowd has been "education reform". Before "education reform" became the the cause celeb for the anti-education crowd the two political parties had different visions to change public education. For the Republicans (especially the right wing of the party) it was school vouchers to private or religious schools and home schooling with little or no union interference. While for the Democrats it was forced integration, school choice, everybody should be given a chance for college, and adding support for struggling schools in poverty areas. Both political parties wanted to find a way to reduce education spending and get more "bang for the buck" but had completely different ideas of how to do it. This difference in the philosophy of the two parties made it difficult to come to a consensus on what is best for the public schools. The result was an education budget that was subject to the whims of the political party in power. However, with this schism, it was easier for smart education leaders and unions to "play the system" by pitting the political parties against each other to support education in the country and educators (many of them former classroom teachers) were able to guide education policy and the funding that went along with these programs.
This all changed in the last decade as the anti-education crowd started to attract supporters from both political parties. More importantly, the for-profit organizations, many of them supported by Hedge Fund Managers smelled a chance to make loads of money by investing in them, started to lobby for "Charter Schools". Increasingly these non-educators started to take control of various school districts, especially inner-city urban areas (New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., etc.). Many of these "education reformers" had these issues in common.
- School choice.
- Privatization of schools.
- Joint private/public funding of new schools that are not subject to union rules.
- Weakening of teacher "due process" rights.
- More efficient use of money for schools.
The problem with "Charter Schools " are many. First, they require significant public funds, even the ones that claim they are privately owned. These public funds usually come out of the neighborhood school in a "rob Peter to pay Paul" scenario. Second, many of the "Charter Schools" fail to take ELL or Special Education students and try to council out children with behavioral problems claiming they do not have the "resources" for the child. These children end up in the local public school in increasing percentages making a comparison between the two schools meaningless. Third, there is a rapid turnover in school staff, especially teachers, as the workload makes the Charter School a hostile and stressful environment for them. Many Charter Schools now rely on the "two year TFA wonders" for their staffing needs in their high turnover environment. Finally, they are "at will" employers and teacher have limited or no"due process" making it difficult for teacher long-term employment. Therefore, despite trying to get the best students, the Charter School grades are no better than the Public School because of the high teacher turnover and the lack of both classroom management skills and curriculum knowledge of the "newbie teachers" that work there. I can add more but you get the message.
The main goal be "Education Reformers" is to take control of the Public School system and that means destroying the power of the educators, especially the teachers' union. Hence, the attack on teacher tenure, seniority-based layoffs known as " last in, first out" (LIFO), teacher evaluations, and collective bargaining rights. For them the teacher is simply a "tool" to use and abuse and eventually leave the system before they pay out a pension or retiree health benefits. That is why the "Education Reformers" support "merit pay". They can simply say a three year teachers should be retained over a fifteen year teacher by subjectively claiming that the three year teacher is more effective. When you challenge them about how you define merit, they sheepishly claim "test scores" and Administrator observations, knowing full well that such simple and questionable standards are prone to errors, manipulation, and abuse.
Finally, the main goal for "Education Reformers" is not what is best for the children, it is how cheaply to run an education system and make a profit for their hedge Find Managers or as I say "education on the cheap".