Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why Charter Schools and Privatization Are Un-Democratic and Do Not Serve the Public's Best Interest

I'm posting this on behalf of Paul van Linden Tol, a Brooklyn Public Library librarian who worked for many years at the Red Hook branch and helped initiate several programs including one which brought books from the BPL system to PS15; he is a parent of a PS15 student. - The Moderator

I lived in Red Hook, worked in Red Hook and my Son is in third Grade school and has been at PS 15 since pre-K. We were Lucky! because Max's first teacher in Pre K was Ms. Perry. Ms. Perry, now retired , was a great teacher, storyteller, philosopher and a keen psychologist who understood the soul of children. She worked for the public schools all her life and was committed to Red Hook and PS 15. (Moderator's note: Ms. Flanagan was the other teacher in Max's pre-K, and she was also wonderful!) We discovered since then that PS 15 is rich in teachers like her.

PS 15 is not a failing school. PS 15 an example of what a good public school can do. The school was on the Mayor's list of most improved schools. The last and the current principals both were /are pro-active. The combination of a dedicated staff, a strong PTA and an involved community, has made the school a good example of how, without any gimmicks, a good public school can work.

The Board of Education had arbitrarily decided to house the Charter School PAVE at PS 15. The Charter School would capitalize on the good foundation that had been laid by the teachers, principals, PTA , the community and the parents. They would skim of the cream of the students and force the school to have larger classes per teacher

The Board of Education is only partly to blame. Although charter schools existed in the 60's, they have now become an hallmark of republican administrations in an overall effort to privatize the public institutions including the schools as much as possible. Both former mayor Giuliani and the current mayor Bloomberg adhere to this * "market fundamentalist" credo. It boils down to "privatize as much as possible-;2. de-professionalize as much as possible; de-fund as much as possible. They thereby hand over the public ( and democratic) domain over to private enterprise. If left unchecked they would privatize the water supply (which already happened in some townships in Maine). This un-democratic attitude was expressed in Red Hook by the disdain the Board of Education and Chancellor Klein showed in deciding to go ahead with the Charter School at PS 15 without input from the community.

The development of charter schools started in New York in big way during Mayor Giuliani's tenure with such companies like Edison Schools Incorporated. The idea was that these schools were to be more innovative and unencumbered by the restrains of the public schools. They could hire non- union teachers and could be exclusionary in regards to students.

However, in California where they are ahead from us in their experience with Charter Schools,
University studies from the University of California failed to show any significant improvement.
They strongly suggest that there is no magic bullet about improving the schools.
Also in California, sixty charter schools had to close recently because of a 113 indictment of its Director. The charges included siphoning 5 million dollar from the schools to the management section of the company.

A similar situation happened in Milwaukee's New Hope School when its director was indicted for embezzling $300.00 dollars

In general Charter Schools
1. Drain funds from the public school budget to private companies
2. They are not truly accountable to the public and not really that different.
3. They are selective and often cream off the best students.
4. There is also an indication that most of the Charter Schools are actually under-funded and
receive only four fifth of the dollar per student.
5. Chancellor Klein has given a positive performance rating of the charters schools they monitor.
What is unconvincing is that the report only rated 13 of the 60 charters school in New York.

Because of the above and as a parent I am opposed to housing a charter school at PS 15
It will marginalize PS 15 because of larger class size, less special programs, less students and less money.

Paul van Linden Tol

* A Market Fundamentalist believes that "private enterprise "can solve all problems in the world no matter how complex.

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