Opposing Charter Schools Without Really Opposing Them (Part 3)

Irrationalism and disinformation manifest themselves in endless ways. While both have intensified greatly in the neoliberal period which began in the late 1970s, the public should brace for even more of both. The obsolete forces who have long benefitted from an outdated economic system that cannot provide for the needs of the people will surely sustain a massive onslaught of irrationalism and disinformation in an attempt to preserve their class power and privilege while keeping people disempowered and disoriented. They see no alternatives to anachronistic arrangements in society and its institutions.

In Opposing Charter Schools Without Really Opposing Them: Part 1 (November 2018), I highlighted some of the forms of confusion promoted by neoliberals, privatizers, and corporate school reformers in order to block people from concluding that nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are detrimental and must be opposed.

Seven months later, in Opposing Charter Schools Without Really Opposing Them: Part 2 (June 2019), I highlighted a different offshoot of the forms of confusion highlighted in Part 1.

The core of all these different types of confusion typically takes the form of detailing many damning and indicting problems with charter schools, while still managing to find a convoluted and bizarre way to support them. It is essentially poorly-disguised support for privately-operated charter schools.

In this article, Part 3, I address yet another form of charter school disinformation distorting consciousness, harming the public interest, and enabling school privatization.

In a July 2, 2019 article in the Hechinger Report revealingly titled, “Charter schools aren’t a radical solution and neither is blaming them: Slamming charters won’t address systemic inequality or put families to work.”  Andre Perry correctly notes that social and economic problems; e.g., racism and inequality, must be addressed if we want schools, students, and society to improve. He rightly notes that the problems in the sphere of education reflect deeper problems in the wider society and that solving the latter is the precondition for the healthy development of the former. Since “Educational inequality is an outcome of larger, systemic issues,” the former can only be improved by fixing the latter. Makes sense.

But Perry is merely setting the stage to say: look, of course, charter schools have 50 problems, but let’s not go after them. What will that accomplish? It won’t eliminate inequality, will it? Let’s just casually and conveniently ignore the failed charter school project for now and focus on bigger fish. Perry explicitly states:

While I frequently criticize the current education reform movement and charter schools, I don’t believe banning the privately managed, publicly financed schools that helped define a reform era will resolve inequality. We must evaluate why this reform movement has mostly failed to deliver on promises for radical change: Education reformers’ attempts  to fix black students, teachers and districts rather than address the systemic inequality that pushes blacks to the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. (emphasis added)

In other words, when all is said and done, no matter how rotten privately-operated charter schools are, Perry is OK with hanging on to a failed arrangement that plunders billions of dollars a year from public schools and solves no problems.

It is true that eliminating privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools that foster segregation, corruption, union-busting, poor performance, weak transparency, selective enrollment, and high teacher turnover rates will not eradicate inequality, but it is also true that eliminating all privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools will be of tremendous benefit and advantage to public schools, society, the economy, and the national interest. Billions of public dollars looted and wasted by wealthy private interests could have gone back to the public, back to its owners, back to where it belongs, and greatly benefited schools, society, and the economy.

Privatization never benefits society, education, the economy, or the national interest. It mainly increases corruption, lowers accountability, keeps people out of the equation, reduces efficiency, and makes rich people richer. Privatization is socially irresponsible.

Perry’s irrationalism and thinly-veiled support for privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools begins to make more sense when we examine his credentials.

Perry is a neoliberal who works for the Brookings Institution, an organization that has long supported many antisocial policies and arrangements. His disposition and orientation are capital-centered. Not surprisingly, Perry has also been heavily involved in the charter school sector for years.

Teachers, parents, students, principals, school board officials, unions, education advocates, child advocates, and others must remain vigilant under these dangerous conditions where reason, logic, coherence, and people’s outlook and rights are being undermined and violated by wealthy private interests every hour.

Every effort must be made to defend and promote coherence, analysis, public schools, and democracy.

Privatizers, neoliberals, and corporate school reformers will not stop their destructive assault on thinking and social responsibility. They are determined to deprive people of an outlook and reference point that serves them. They seek to keep control of education, society, and the economy in their private hands and out of the hands of the public. Privatizers, neoliberals, and corporate school reformers are growing increasingly desperate and want nothing more than to prevent people from activating themselves and their social consciousness to develop solutions that favor them.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.