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Unlike some of my friends and political comrades, I am not against charter schools as a matter of principle. However, I am acutely aware that the charter school movement has been used by the nation’s financial elite as a strategy to weaken public schools, undermine teachers unions, divide parents in working class communities against one another, and in all to many cases, build careers or make profits.

Charter Schools

The following are some common sense categories I have developed to judge whether charter schools, or charter school organizations, represent well intentioned experiments in diversifying public education, or cynical efforts to undermine public schools and degrade the teaching profession.

If charter schools or charter school organizations possess the following attributes, you should be very, very wary of what they are about.

  1. The leaders call themselves “CEO’s” and make salaries many times higher than those of public school administrators in their communities.
  2. They have extremely high rates of turnover for teachers because they are not unionized and subject their teachers to extreme pressure and intimidation.
  3. They systematically exclude, or drive out, special needs students, ELL (English language learner) students and students who can’t and won’t conform to draconian behavior codes.
  4. They define the communities they are located in as toxic and seek to make their students aspire to cultural values of wealthy people outside their communities who fund their schools.
  5. They denounce local public schools and seek to have them replaced by more and more charters and refuse to work with public schools when they are located in the same building.
  6. They are run for profit by private companies.
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When we apply these standards to real life what we come up with is chilling. The most publicized charter school organizations- K.I.P.P., the Harlem Children’s Zone and Harlem Success Academies, all possess the first five attributes while a shocking number of new charters are run for profit.

And as a result, the charter school movement, despite incredible support from both major parties and corporate America, have not expanded educational opportunity as a whole in America’s poor and working class communities because it has systematically weakened public education to advance itself leaving children outside of the charter school system in resource starved institutions.

mark naison

Mark Naison
With a Brooklyn Accent

Posted: Sunday, 2 September 2012