Tag Archives: school choice

Minneapolis Public Schools Stands By Administrator with Side School Choice Consulting Business

January 17, 2018

In 2017, according to Minneapolis Public Schools staff, the district’s General Counsel, Amy Moore, investigated whether or not district administrator Bryan Fleming’s consulting business constituted a conflict of interest, per MPS policy 3000.

The conclusion reached was that Fleming was not in violation of the district policy. He was therefore allowed to keep his job as Director of Enrollment Management within MPS and retain an interest in his business, Fleming Education Group. This business, as noted in a January 16 blog post, is dedicated to steering families (with means, it would appear) into the “right” school for their child, whether that is a Minneapolis public school or not. 

Fleming was hired by the Minneapolis Public Schools in 2016, reportedly during Michael Goar’s brief tenure as Interim superintendent. At that time, his private consulting practice had been in operation since 2015. A look at the Fleming Education Group’s website reveals a list of documents and services prospective clients can access, including a “School Choice Checklist.”

This checklist is frequently put to use during divorce proceedings, according to sources familiar with Fleming’s work. One client, whose spouse retained Fleming in 2016, shared documents with me yesterday regarding the work Fleming completed for them. (Because this case involves a minor, I will not include names.) The couple was going through a divorce then, which resulted in a dispute about where the couple’s child should attend school.

Fleming, per the documents shared with me, walked the parents through an extensive process of evaluating whether or not the child should remain in the Minneapolis Public Schools or be moved, as one parent wanted, to a well-known private school. The family resided in Minneapolis and, as mentioned, the minor in question was already attending a Minneapolis school. Fleming offered the parents a side-by-side comparison of the two schools (one private, one a Minneapolis public school) in question.

Although Fleming’s recommendation in this particular case was to keep the child in their Minneapolis school, his research revealed no particular preference for the Minneapolis Public Schools. When it came to class size and curriculum, for example, the private school being considered (The Blake School) came out ahead of Minneapolis for the following reasons:

Fleming is being paid, one assumes, by the Minneapolis Public Schools to promote the district and help sell its schools to the public. Can the Fleming Education Group also promote a highly selective school choice process, without conflict? Perhaps Fleming is no longer actively involved with this outfit; the website, however, still lists Bryan Fleming as the founder and principal. No other employee or partner name is provided. 

According to documents available on the Fleming Education Group website, this consulting gig is no small time affair when it comes to either cost or the evaluation process. Clients wishing to retain the Fleming Education Group must pay $1500 up front for services that will be billed at $185 per hour.  This is clearly a niche market, geared towards wealthy families who are seeking school placement advice, either because of a divorce or a recent move to the Twin Cities.

Whether or not this service should exist is not the question. The question is why someone who founded and maintains a service like this should also be employed, at taxpayer expense, as the enrollment manager for the Minneapolis Public Schools. Especially, of course, when the district is facing an ongoing loss of students and a resulting drop in per pupil funding (leaving the more vulnerable students behind to be educated and cared for with fewer resources).

And per pupil dollars matter. On the above-mentioned 2016 Fleming Education Group report, The Blake School’s far higher per pupil funding was highlighted as a reason to consider it over the Minneapolis Public Schools:

This strikes me as a transparent conflict of interest. 

As a note of contrast, a handful of teachers and parents spoke out at the last Minneapolis school board meeting, on January 9. They were there to talk about “what is missing” in their schools and classrooms, as part of a union-led organizing campaign. Bethune Elementary School kindergarten teacher, Greta Callahan, told board members that “what’s missing is a basic understanding of what poverty and trauma look like, and what children right here in our city are going through.” 

99 percent of Bethune’s students live in poverty and 93 percent are students of color, according to Minnesota Department of Education statistics. Callahan spoke at the board meeting about the kinds of trauma her students deal with every day, from “siblings dying to living in foster homes, shuffling between shelters…and so much more.” 

I wonder. Does the Fleming Education Group steer any prospective parents to Bethune?

Callahan told board members that her classroom is a “sacred space filled with freedom and joy for five-year olds.” Trust has been established, she indicated, thanks to the “trauma-informed” practices that Bethune staff have adopted. Callahan then said this trust had been recently violated when a district administrator visited Callahan’s classrooms and spoke with her students without first introducing herself or asking Callahan which students could be approached and which should not be (this is what trauma-informed best practices look like).

One girl broke down in sobs when the administrator finally left, having been alarmed and confused by a stranger approaching her. “It is not okay,” Callahan insisted, her voice thick with emotion, that “a basic understanding of trauma is absent and missing from our district counterparts.”

South High School English teacher, Corinth Matera, also spoke at the board meeting about “what’s missing” at her school. “Despite the list I’m going to give you,” Matera told board members, “there are beautiful, incredible and powerful things happening in our building every day, because of our amazing students and brilliant staff.”

But this powerful work takes a toll on students and staff, Matera insisted, before listing what the school “carries on without,” such as “a full-time chemical health counselor,” which South had until a couple of years ago, as well as “windows and light, the number of engineers we need to keep our building clean and safe, training in restorative justice for our whole staff, and sufficient language interpreters for parent conferences” so that all families can fully participate in their children’s education.

Another missing piece? “Class sizes that allow us to effectively teach students to write,” Matera noted, before finally asking school board members to support the union’s current contract proposal. 

On the Fleming Education Group (FEG) website, a look at the kind of thorough, thoughtful, “child-centered” evaluation clients receive is provided. Here’s a sample of the process:

FEG’s process is rooted in the philosophy of meeting children’s diverse learning needs and promoting their healthy cognitive and social development.  Underlying this philosophy is the guiding principle that children have a better chance to thrive in safe, stable, robust learning environments that are equipped to meet a child’s specific learning profile. Adhering to this ‘child-as-learner-first’ process ensures that school placements are successful….

Is this same care and concern also applied to the children who go to Bethune, South and every other Minneapolis public school site? 

“The freedom to teach what the teachers decide is important (not tied to state curricular, textbooks and testing mandates).”

–One of the benefits of choosing a private school, according to Fleming Education Group

Like my work? Consider supporting it through a much appreciated donation. And thanks to those of you who already have!

Donate

Minneapolis Public Schools Administrator Runs a Side School Choice Consulting Business

January 16, 2018

When it comes to declining student enrollment for the Minneapolis Public Schools, it looks like the fox may be guarding the hen house. 

Bryan Fleming

Bryan Fleming, who has served as Director of Enrollment Management for the Minneapolis schools since 2016, runs a side consulting business that offers “School-placement Advising for families and family law practitioners.” Fleming’s side gig bears his name–Fleming Education Group–but no mention of his role as a current employee of the Minneapolis Public Schools. His bio simply states that he is a “former educator and school administrator.” 

Fleming may be collecting an undoubtedly generous, taxpayer-funded salary from the Minneapolis schools, but that doesn’t appear to have made him a champion of public schools. Instead, the consulting company that bears his name offers this note for prospective clients:

Fleming Education Group helps clients manage their fears and anxiety about educational options, and strive for child-centered solutions in every instance. We know how to broaden a family’s school-choice lens in a productive, efficient way to achieve the outcomes that will maximize their child’s promise.

“Broadening a family’s school-choice lens” is an interesting position to take for someone employed by a pubic school district–particularly one that is struggling to stay afloat amid the endless proliferation of school choice schemes. But the Fleming Education Group is clearly targeted to families with choices, the kind that can easily walk away from a school they deem unworthy or unfit for their children. 

Need proof? Just read through the blog post currently up on the Fleming Education Group website. Called “Debunking ‘Private–Why a Private School?’,” the post is a declaration of love for exclusive private schools. The blog post, part of a series called “Thoughts by Bryan,” offers Fleming’s thoughts on the value of a private education–and the freedom these schools enjoy by “admitting only those students appropriate to the mission.”

Here are the first four paragraphs of the  Fleming Education Group’s blog:

Those of us with children in private schools have chosen our school for many important reasons, one of which may be that it is an independent, or “private,” school. Yet when family, friends and neighbors ask, “Why do you send your student to a private school?” many of us find it difficult to articulate the answer.

Our difficulty may stem, in part, from the fact that we chose our private school for many intangible reasons that are hard to put into words. And sometimes we might be concerned that our answer will trigger a debate about the merits of public versus private school.

At Fleming Education Group, our client families pose this question more often than not. I want to help make answering “why a private school?” in general, and “why Breck, SPA, Blake, Minnehaha Academy, International School or Providence Academy?” in particular easier for anyone exploring school-placement options.

Especially here in the Twin Cities where there are so many excellent, non-private school options (Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Orono, Wayzata and many more), it’s important to focus on understanding the value of independence, as this is truly one of the things that can make private-independent schools worth the investment.

This is jaw-dropping. The Minneapolis Public Schools’ own Director of Enrollment Management runs (according to his LinkedIn page) a side business built around steering families into private schools. The “many excellent, non-private school options” Fleming’s post mentions does not even include the Minneapolis Public Schools. 

Fleming is  a full-time employee of the Minneapolis schools. As I understand it, full-time employees of the district are not allowed to operate side consulting gigs that directly conflict their paid employment with the district. At the very least, the district has a “conflict of interest” policy.

This came to a head in 2016 when Associate Superintendent, Lucilla Davila, was placed on leave for her involvement in a business that provides after-school programming. Davila was reinstated in January, 2017 although she is now listed as being part of another side consulting business, Global Immersion Network Consultants (GINC), with a very similar-sounding, educational mission to that of the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Multilingual Department.

Fleming was the Director of Admissions for the prestigious Blake School from 2000-2014. He then took a short turn as an employee of the Bush Foundation, a key, local philanthropic group that has been very supportive of market-based education reform efforts. In 2014, the Bush Foundation gave a $200,000 grant to the Education Transformation Initiative. This is very important to keep in mind here.

The Education Transformation Initiative became Minnesota Comeback, according to a 2016 press release from Minnesota Comeback:

Incubated by The Minneapolis Foundation as the Education Transformation Initiative, MN Comeback is an independent nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Comeback is a local group with ties to a national, billionaire-funded reform outfit called Education Cities. Education Cities’ mission, carried forward locally by Minnesota Comeback, is to spread school choice and facilitate the growth of charter schools, under the guise of a “sector neutral” preference for “High Quality Seats.” They want seats as opposed to schools  because “seats” open the door to investors (in education technology, for example) that traditional, union-staffed public schools might not.

The charter schools being given funding, PR and “growth opportunities” by Minnesota Comeback and their supporters need students from the Minneapolis Public Schools in order to survive and further weaken the district. (A district, weakened by design through chaos, reduced funding and poor management, for example, is a boon to charter school operators.)

Enter Bryan Fleming. As Director of Enrollment Management for the Minneapolis schools, he has key insight into what families want from the Minneapolis schools and what their reasons are for leaving the district. He appears to have a side business that promotes school choice and indicates a clear preference for the greener grass at fancy private schools while the Minneapolis Public Schools struggles with shrinking enrollment and the accompanying loss of funding.

If this isn’t a conflict of interest, then what is?

Like my work? Consider supporting it through a much appreciated donation. And thanks to those of you who already have!

Donate

Privatizer’s Paradise: MN Comeback Touts Milwaukee “Success”

March 21, 2016

As the Minneapolis school board continues to search for a new superintendent, MN Comeback is working behind the scenes to privately wield influence over the district. This is a continuation of my posts about how the market-based reform movement is impacting the Minneapolis schools.

In a March 8 letter sent to the Minneapolis school board, MN Comeback representatives heavily lobbied board members, asking them to further partner with MN Comeback’s privately funded “coalition.” As a selling point, the letter makes this claim:

Sustained improvements and transformation require rapport and collaboration with community partners. Cities like Memphis, Oakland, Denver and Milwaukee are implementing robust citywide plans and seeing strong results.

Redo 2

MN Comeback PPT slide

Milwaukee? Yes, Milwaukee. MN Comeback wants the Minneapolis school board to look to Milwaukee, Wisconsin as an example of how to run a partnership-infused, “robust” city school district. 

As I have pointed out in previous blog posts, MN Comeback is operating under the umbrella of a national, billionaire-funded organization called Education Cities; Milwaukee is, too.

MN Comeback bills itself as a local group, run by “80 schools, organizations, and funders,” that has settled on an “ambitious goal” of creating “30,000 rigorous and relevant seats” for low-income Minneapolis students by 2025. MN Comeback likes to say it is “sector agnostic,” meaning they do not care where these “rigorous and relevant” seats are located. Yet expanding the “charter sector” is priority number one, according to this MN Comeback job posting.

MN Comeback’s equivalent in Milwaukee is called “Schools that Can Milwaukee” (STCM). This group has also come up with a catchy, numbers-based tagline, saying it wants “20,000 students in high-performing schools by 2020,” also in sector neutral “partner” schools (Education Cities’s marketing plan must be a “shared resource.”) According to its website, STCM is “intensely pursuing” strategies that sound an awful lot like MN Comeback’s:

  • Expand and Replicate Local High-Performing Schools
  • Develop High-Potential Schools into High-Performing Schools
  • Recruit High-Performing School Networks & Leaders to Milwaukee

What follows is the usual lofty jargon about the urgent need for “transformational” change that only partners such as Teach for America and “low-budget” charter school company, Rocketship Education, can provide. (Rocketship–which has been funded by California billionaire and 2014 Minneapolis school board race investor, Arthur Rock–was lampooned in this 2014 video by cartoonist Mark Fiore, who renamed it ProfitShip Learning.)

Gordon Lafer of the Economic Policy Institute has argued that Rocketship’s “cheaper by the dozen” model is nothing but a profiteering, privatizing romp at the expense of marginalized kids:

Rocketship relies on inexperienced teachers, almost one-third of whom quit last year. It saves money by having students as young as kindergarten spend one-quarter of their day in front of a computer screen with no licensed teacher present. It offers no library or librarians, no music classes, no guidance counselors and no foreign languages.

In short, it’s a model that no suburban parents would accept for their own children — and indeed Rocketship is only being promoted as an option for children who live in poor cities.

Another one of STCM’s Milwaukee partners is PAVE, which has taken on the “big job” of “changing the status quo for Milwaukee’s children” by expanding charter and “partner” schools in the city. Like MN Comeback, PAVE also works with Teach for America and the IFF–a real estate lending and consulting company with a “commitment to increasing the number of high-performing schools” in places like Milwaukee and Minneapolis

IFF shares the morality-glossed “save the kids” mission of both MN Comeback and STCM, and acts as a support system for what sound like urban takeover plans: “Foundations, school districts, and charter school authorizers have used our research to support data-driven education reform strategies, including in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.”  The profit motive here? Real estate investment tax credits

Milwaukee is also home to a failed, decades-old school voucher scheme that continues to be propped up. Additionally, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has starved the state’s public education system into submission by ravaging it with budget cuts and derision. (Yet Walker has had no problem publicly funding private sports stadiums.)

Since 2015, Wisconsin no longer provides tenure for its state university faculty, causing departing UW-Madison higher education policy professor, Sara Goldrick-Rab, to starkly declare that, “Terrified sheep make lousy teachers….”

Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, are in fact petri dishes for the insistent, excuses-laden policies of free-market economist Milton Friedman and his Wal-Mart-funded devotees. And this is where MN Comeback thinks we should look for examples of how to reform the Minneapolis schools?

Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system—i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools.

–Milton Friedman, Public Schools: Make Them Private

In Milwaukee, community members–including the NAACP, a Latino rights group and the Milwaukee teachers union–have organized to fight the attempted takeover of their schools. They cite the documented negative impact takeovers and school choice schemes have on students of color and their families, and they want something different–public community schools built around these priorities:

  1. Engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging curriculum
  2. Emphasis on quality teaching, not high stakes testing
  3. Wrap-around supports and opportunities
  4. Positive discipline practices (e.g. Restorative Justice/Practices)
  5. Authentic community and parent engagement
  6. Inclusive school leadership

If MN Comeback thinks Minneapolis should emulate Milwaukee, they might want to take a step back, and think again.

No grant, no guru, no outside funding source. My work is entirely funded by my very kind and generous readers. Thank you to those who have already donated!

[Exq_ppd_form]

School Choice? Less Reagan, More Humphrey, Please

January 28, 2016

What passes for acceptable school choice rhetoric, behind closed doors, is frightening.

school choice panel 1

All white panel, under a photo of an integrated classroom

On Tuesday, January 26, I attended a National School Choice Week forum at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. I went expecting a pro-school choice event, obviously, but, since the Humphrey School is one of the nation’s premier public policy graduate schools, I also expected a reasonable look at the choice movement in education.

What I found instead was appalling. The Humphrey School’s event was billed as “bipartisan,” but I quickly realized how thoroughly that word has become cover for groupthink. If both Democrats and Republicans support the dismantling of our public institutions, then shouldn’t you, too?

Let me explain. The Humphrey School event was moderated by former MinnPost education writer, Beth Hawkins. Hawkins was joined onstage–for an “informative discussion”–by former Democratic state senator and charter school pioneer Ember Reichgott Junge, current Republican state legislator and education finance committee chair, Jennifer Loon, and Richard Komer, of the Virginia-based right-wing group, the Institute for Justice.

One Democrat+one right-leaning Republican+one far-right lawyer (Komer) does not add up to a “bipartisan” panel, in my opinion.  Humphrey School event

The panel ended up being all white, too, when invited African-American guest, George Parker, who works for the education reform group, Students First, was not able to make it. But that’s not all. The whole room was white, as far as I could see. 

The audience gathered was formally dressed and appeared representative of the kind of people who have the freedom to attend mid-morning forums. It also seemed to include many state legislators. David Hann, a Republican from suburban Eden Prairie, was acknowledged, as were others.

The morning’s panel began with a quick dismissal of the desegregation lawsuit filed in Minnesota last fall, which, if successful, could require the state’s charter schools to develop and implement integration plans. All of the panelists, and moderator Hawkins, seemed to agree that the resegregation happening across the country now is simply due to “parental choice.” Reichgott Junge–the Democrat–declared herself “not neutral” on this topic, and told the audience not to worry because “this is not the civil rights era.” What she meant, I guess, was that we solved all of that bad racism stuff back in the ’60’s. Case closed. 

Can I mention how very odd all of this was? We were sitting in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Humphrey! He was one of Minnesota’s leading advocates–and most eloquent agitators–for civil rights, back when such views posed a direct threat to the Democratic party, which had grown quite comfortable with the racist “states’ rights” rhetoric of its Southern Segregationist members.

Is our current “bipartisan” political world growing quite comfortable with racist “school choice” rhetoric? Is any attempt to regulate charter schools a “frontal attack on choice,” as Hawkins said? Really? Is there no room on the school choice bandwagon for critical thinking?

Wilkins 2

Humphrey School features Roy Wilkins, too

Is there any safe place to express concern that the rapid resegregation of our public school system is not a happy accident, brought on by the heavenly solution of school choice? 

Apparently not at the Humphrey School’s National School Choice Week forum. 

As I left the forum, I could not stop thinking about Humphrey and his legacy. Back in front of my computer, I found a 2011 New York Times opinion piece about him, written by Rick Perlstein. Both Humphrey and Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 in 2011, and this connection, and contrast, framed Perlstein’s piece.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

JANUARY was the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, and the planet nearly stopped turning on its axis to recognize the occasion. Today is the 100th anniversary of Hubert H. Humphrey’s birth, and no one besides me seems to have noticed.

That such a central figure in American history is largely ignored today is sad. But his diminution is also, more importantly, an impediment to understanding our current malaise as a nation, and how much better things might have been had today’s America turned out less Reaganite and more Humphreyish.

That’s it. This is the framework I have been looking for. What would our education policy discussions be like today, if America had turned out “less Reagnite” and “more Humphreyish”? The hammering narrative of failure, applied with force to our nation’s public school system, found fertile ground in the Reagan era, of course, through the overhyped “Nation at Risk” report. That report helped propel America away from further investment in public schools, and towards school choice schemes (hint: privatization).

Deregulation, Perlstein calls it. And that was the flavor of the day at the Humphrey School’s event. Deregulation in the education “marketplace” will solve our problems. In fact, according to the “bipartisan” panel, there is nothing a deregulated, choice-based education system cannot solve. Universal preschool? Great idea, said Reichgott Junge, but too expensive. Let’s charterize the preschool market, instead, and throw some scholarships, otherwise known as vouchers, on top of it.  

And while we are at it, perhaps we should follow panelist Richard Komer’s line of thinking, regarding the Constitution. Komer waxed enthusiastic about all of the wonderful things a deregulated, voucher-filled education landscape could offer–including more discipline, more uniforms, more religion, and more racist, elitist assumptions about what “poor minorities” want. Public schools could do this, too, he said, if only the Constitution was not standing in the way.

And no one in the room, no one gathered in the Humphrey School (except for one clear outsider who was swiftly dismissed), stood up or spoke up to challenge the frightening threads so visible in Komer’s–and, frankly, the panel’s–ideas. 

The new groups are not concerned
With what there is to be learned
They got Burton suits, ha you think it’s funny
Turning rebellion into money

—The Clash, “White Man in Hammersmith Palais

No grant, no guru, no outside funding source. My work is entirely funded by my very kind and generous readers. Thank you to those who have already donated!

[Exq_ppd_form]

Spooky! Beware of Scripted Education Debates…

October 27, 2015

How can you tell that the 2015 election is coming, and the 2016 one is not far off? By counting all of the anti-union opinion pieces and editorials floating around, of course.

Case in point: the Sunday, October 25 Opinion section of the Minneapolis StarTribune prominently featured a rail against “fundamentalist” teachers unions and their allies, written by former fundamentalist (by birth, we are told) and current “progressive” proponent of education reform, Lynnell Mickelsen.

Mickelsen’s piece, titled “Political rigidity? The left has it too,” seeks to rip teachers unions and the Democrats that support them–unquestioningly, of course–for, yawn, being, double yawn, opposed to anything that challenges their union-loving worldview. 

Still awake? Good, there’s more.

Mickelsen stirringly provides a list of why teachers union supporters (because that’s what they are, of course–nothing more, nothing less) are like fundamentalists. Mostly, it boils down to this: teachers unions and their blind followers are narrow-minded and simplistic, hate change, are old and racist, and will do anything to destroy charter schools.

Here’s an example, from Mickelsen’s piece (capitalization pattern is hers):

“Teachers’ unions are basically claiming Public Schools Are Between A Union and Its District, so any change in this tradition — i.e., charter schools — is an attempt to destroy public education.”

Mickelsen, who is an entertaining writer and a fellow education and school board meeting devotee, also decries the way Minnesota’s state teachers union, Education Minnesota, shamelessly funds Democratic candidates and thus exercises mind control over the party faithful:

Education Minnesota is the largest contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. It sets the tone and parameters of our education debates, which, among elected Democrats, are now predictably rigid and scripted — and this concerns a program that consumes 42 percent of the state’s operating budget, affects hundreds of thousands of children and has shamefully racialized results.

Speaking of “predictably rigid and scripted” education debates, Mickelsen’s piece originally showed up on former U.S. Department of Education employee Peter Cunningham’s blog, Education Post.

Education Post was launched just one year ago, with an impressive $12 million in cold, hard, conversation-starting cash. The goal? Providing a space, funded by old billionaire white guys like Eli Broad, to have a “better” conversation about education and how it should be done for poor children of color.

The bummer? It has since struggled to attract readers, leading Cunningham to recently send an email blast to his supporters, advising them on how to Tweet together and otherwise act as a united front:

When we all start sharing together more consistently, we’ll send a strong signal to our followers and friends, the media and the blogosphere, that we want to see more stories that show the positive difference we are making in the lives of children.

There it is! The “sharing together more consistently” thing! Just a few days before Mickelsen’s piece comparing union supporters to fundamentalists hit the fan, Cunningham published a near replica, called “The Best Hope for Teachers Unions is…Reform.”

Cunningham’s pro-“get tough” reform piece appeared on both his Huffington Post site and on Education Post, in a coordinated campaign sort of way.

I’m not sure if the two were comparing notes, but Cunningham’s piece strongly resembles Micklesen’s. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any case, both pieces harp on remarkably similar (and familiar) points of view: charter schools are amazing, teachers unions are toxic and antiquated, and school choice is the yellow brick road to redemption.

Cunningham’s piece nicely sets the union-bashing stage for Mickelsen’s, through claims such as these:

Charter opponents like to label education leaders who are empowering families’ right to choose as “privatizers.” In their dictionary, public means “union-controlled” and any variation is the enemy.

And here is a similar snippet from Mickelsen’s piece:

In the union narrative, reformers aren’t just wrong about educational policy — they must have evil intent. So reformers are typically cast as vague “corporatists” hellbent on the equally vague profiteering from or privatizing of public schools.

Okay, I’m starting to see a rigid, scripted debate forming….

Here’s another tidbit from Cunningham’s post:

Teacher unions, who need unionized teachers and dues in order to exist, are fighting desperately to convince parents to stay with the traditional, district-run schools. But rather than appealing to parents on the strength of the education that traditional schools offer, their strategy primarily focuses on limiting funding for charters,capping their growth or organizing their teachers to join a union.

To quote Mickelsen’s piece, “I could keep listing common traits, but you get the idea.”

In short, unions are really, really bad, charter schools are really, really good, and anyone who disagrees with either of these points of view is a “fundie” not worth listening to.

In contrast, here are a couple of paragraphs worth considering, from New York professor Christopher Bonastia’s 2015 article, “The Racist History of the Charter School Movement”:

By all appearances, charters will remain on the educational landscape for the foreseeable future. While charter skeptics can’t merely wish them away, they can push for greater accountability—after all, isn’t this the whole point of charters? Anyone who blindly accepts that competition will improve education for students in charters and traditional public schools alike should remember that other articles of faith about the market—like cutting taxes on the rich will make all of our yachts and rafts rise—have proven illusory.

…There is no magic elixir that will fix our educational system. Of course, we should continue to be open to fresh ideas about improving school organization, teaching and learning. But if we continue to ignore important historical lessons about the dangerous consequences of educational privatization and fail to harness our desire to plunge headlong into unproven reform initiatives, we may discover that the cure we so lovingly embraced has made the patient sicker.

I am neither union nor charter school funded, so please consider donating to keep this blog rolling! Your support is crucial and much appreciated.

[Exq_ppd_form]