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The list of the most frightening consequences of the replacement of public schools with charter schools in low- and moderate-income communities includes the following: the removal of schools from public scrutiny, the institutionalization of authoritarian school management, and the suppression of parent, teacher and student voices. Historically, schools were public institutions in the best sense of the world…hosting meetings, offering community programs, and serving as polling sites for citizens eager to cast votes for candidates for public office.

Replacing Public Schools

By contrast, all too many charter schools see the communities they are located in as toxic and seek to insulate and to isolate children and families from their surroundings. Charter school corporations run their institutions as heroic outposts of civilization and progress in a grim social landscape, limiting access to their buildings to those enrolled in the schools, and viewing local cultural traditions as threats rather than as assets to their efforts to march students to “college-and-career readiness.”

Along with that approach comes a top-down management style wherein highly compensated school CEOs hold far more power than public school administrators to intimidate staff, to discipline students, to fire teachers and to push out students and families. In far too many cases, charter schools present disturbingly high rates of teacher turnover and of student expulsion enabled by disciplinary policies that would not be tolerated in public schools. Fear of the school CEO shapes school culture in a way that leaves teachers, parents, and students with minimal recourse, since charter-school legislation frees administrators from many of the regulations that constrain traditional public schools.

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Public officials, desperate to produce better results on test scores in low- and moderate-income communities, willingly sacrifice democratic traditions, community input, and due process for teachers and students—a chilling price to pay in pursuit of the “global economic competitiveness” and “the production of a 21st century workforce” goals that they claim to support.

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mark naison

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent