To help make that a reality for every family in the city, Mayor Bloomberg
and I have set about giving parents more choices - both because choice makes it
more likely that parents will find what they want for their children and because
competition creates better outcomes for children. .... By creating options in long
underserved neighborhoods, charters are helping to level the playing field."
The above quotes are from a “Be Our Guest” column in the Daily News written by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. I found it very disturbing. All this talk about “choice” and “options,” makes me very uneasy. And the reference to competition, well that raises some good questions as to who is actually competing for what
Let’s begin with the idea that parents need a lot of choices and options for their kids to get a “sound basic education” [New York State Constitution]. All parents and kids need are GOOD, WELL-RUN SCHOOLS to prepare them for employment or higher education. It was my understanding that the Department of Education, to wit, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, were responsible for seeing to this in the public school system in this city.
But now, apparently, with the charter school “choices” it seems the private sector, i.e., corporations and non-profits, are becoming more and more responsible for public education. What? So our school “choice” is to have our kids educated by corporations?
If you have been following this issue, you know that many of these schools are run by politicians, the politically connected (eg, Eva Moskowitz), and/or wealthy individuals and foundations. This leaves plenty of room for fraud and corruption, as you have seen in the paper in case after case (eg, the conflict of interest regarding the move of the NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries supposed to move into Al E. Smith High School.)
You will also know that in many cases the charter schools are getting preferential treatment to the public schools in the same community, or in the very same building, not to mention public money that should be going to improve our public schools. And also don’t forget that often seats in charter schools are given to students with fewer special needs or language issues, or are “won” by lottery. And as charter school proponents always say, there is no lack of candidates for these schools.
The second issue of “competition.” Chancellor Klein implies that the competition is between the public and private sector schools and this will somehow make the quality of education better. This is an uneven playing field at best because of the reasons cited above. But who is really competing? They are creating a situation in which kids will be forced to compete for seats in the few “good” schools (be them charter or “academies”) due to the phasing out of the traditional public schools (who must take all students who apply).
This is nothing less than the dismantling of the public school system and the evasion by government of their responsibility to educate the city’s children.
What ultimate consequences will this corporate experiment have on future generations? We do not know. The public school system cannot be run like a business, students to be sold to the highest bidder. It is the very foundation of the future of this city. All I can say is: caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
-- Sandi Lusk, former NYC public school parent and Bronx community leader