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Brian Hooks, chairman of the Koch network, and Charles Koch, its main patron, speak to donors Saturday night during the Koch network seminar in Indian Wells, Calif. (Seminar Network)

Brian Hooks, chairman of the Koch network, and Charles Koch, its main patron, speak to donors Saturday night during the Koch network seminar in Indian Wells, Calif. (Seminar Network)

The polls say their cause took a heavy hit in the wake of the LA teacher strike, but don't count them out. The charter school movement never takes "no" for an answer.

We saw the parents of charter school kids, some of the charter school teachers, and a larger complement of ideological allies descend on the LAUSD board meeting yesterday, expecting to intimidate an already charter-friendly board to renege on its agreement with UTLA to petition the state legislature for a moratorium (or "pause") on authorizing more charters.

Likewise, the LA Times lost no time in giving prominent Sunday space to David Osborne, an ideological ally of the charter movement, who whined in his ill-tempered Op-Ed that the national teachers' unions unfairly scapegoat charters for the problems facing conventional unionized schools.

On cost and on relative performance, less than half of charter school kids actually do better academically than children served by regular schools.

Osborne trotted out the familiar arguments developed over the years by the billionaire supporters of charter schools and the related privatization movement (people with names like Koch, Walton, Broad, DeVos, Bloomberg, etc.) To wit, that charter schools provide needed choice for the "victims" of underperforming conventional schools, that they represent liberation for low-income kids of color, and that they cost less to operate and produce better results (i.e., test scores) than conventional schools.

All of this is bullshit.

On "choice," it's always the most motivated and involved parents who tend to choose specialized charters for their kids. Relatively uninvolved parents, and the parents of special needs children, are often unable, in practical terms, to "choose" the charter path. There's no question that the charter operators don't want the kids of such parents; they choose the kids they want and leave the others behind. There is also no question that the next step, in the billionaires' playbook, is giving parents nationwide the option of choosing fully private and religious schools while having taxpayers pick up the tab.

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Just this past weekend a big Coachella Valley gathering organized by the Kochs (and attended by 634 elite donors) featured "research" (directly financed by the Kochs) that pushes the idea of open-ended school choice at taxpayer expense. It's disingenuous for Osborne and similar shills to say that the ultimate goal of the movement isn't total privatization.

On cost and on relative performance, less than half of charter school kids actually do better academically than children served by regular schools. There is no compelling research showing that charters are actually superior, yet this "argument" gets used again and again and again, with credulous reporters uncritically reporting it as fact.

But by far the most preposterous aspect of the billionaires' favorite "cause" is the idea that the Kochs and Waltons and DeVoses of this world really care about the fate of poor children of color.

It's a well-established fact that unionization does more to improve household income and well-being among Black people than any other factor. So how is that vehemently anti-union rich folks can get away with posing as the best friends of poor Black kids? It's hard to know which aspect of this is more contemptible: the vanity of the pose or the falsity of the pose.

The teachers' unions know this, of course. They are absolutely right to keep educating the public about the ugly realities of the charter movement. And that very focus on telling the truth explains why the charter advocates won't rest until the unions are destroyed.

peter laarman 2018

As the old song says, whose side are you on?

Peter Laarman

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