School Board Privatization: Committee for a Better _________ (Your City Here)
Not far from my home, on a vacant lot next to a major highway, I noticed an advertisement for our upcoming local school board elections. The name of the candidate is not familiar to me, but each time I pass the board, I wonder, “Who is funding you?”
The purchasing of local school board races by well-funded, national groups with privatizing interests in the supplanting of community school systems with so-called “choice” (e.g., for-profit charter operations; vouchers, online education companies) is now commonplace nationwide.
One means of bankrolling a state or local school board right into education privatizing hands is for well-funded national groups (including non-profit foundations) to form a political action committee (PAC) hidden behind a local-sounding, grass-rootsy name.
One such ploy has come to my attention, a PAC that takes on the name of a local school district as “Committee for a Better _____” (fill in the blank with the name of a city or county/parish).
In its solicitation of prospective candidates to fund, this PAC requires those receiving a contribution to sign a detailed agreement to advance privatization. Below is the text of such an agreement:
Committee for a Better ______ Education Platform
I pledge to vigorously support the following issues:
Implementing all viable options for turning around low-performing ____ schools, including nationally recruiting school principals and issuing RFP’s (requests for proposal) for high-quality charter operators to turn around failing schools.
Expanding the magnet school system to eliminate the waiting list for qualified students.
Expanding educational options (school choice) of parents through the opening of quality charter schools by pro-actively soliciting charter proposals; authorizing charter schools using “best practices” standards as proposed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), and allowing charter schools that meet NACSA standards to locate or co-locate in public school facilities.
Enhancing the ability of the ______ schools to attract new teachers and principals with diverse experiences and backgrounds to replace retirees and fill vacancies by supporting alternative certification programs for new teachers and principals, and supporting and encouraging the New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), the New Teacher Project (TNTP), and Teach for America (TFA) programs to operate in ______.
Implementing strict rules that will restrict school board members to creating school systems policy only, and that will prohibit school board members from interfering with the superintendent’s duties of running the day-to-day operation of the school system.
Implementing sound financial practices that will ensure the stability of ______ schools. This would include the consolidating or closing of facilities where warranted and recommended by the superintendent.
Establishing a performance plan with annual benchmarks to get 100 percent of schools at or above basic (on state tests) and to have ______ schools ranked in the top 25 percent of the state’s school systems. This would include ensuring that 75 percent of kindergarten students begin school at grade level within the next four years.
Presenting annual written reports to major state newspapers and live presentations that evaluate the financial and academic achievements as they relate to the school system’s performance plan to civic organizations and the chamber of commerce.
Performing a national search for candidates and releasing to the public each school board member’s scoring by evaluation category of all candidates in the event that a replacement for the current superintendent is needed.
[Candidate’s signature and printed name]
By signing the above document, a school board candidate is clearly agreeing to effectively sabotage the very school system he/she has been elected to represent. Charter schools do not answer to the local school board. They are “freed” from such “constraint” even as they draw public funding away from the system schools. Moreover, by agreeing to the above (all for the sake of getting money, mind you), the candidate agrees to work to limit school board authority in favor of increasing the authority of a single person– the superintendent. Notice also the heavy reliance on “alternative certification” such as TNTP and TFA. Charter schools depend upon such folks for cheaper (un-unionized), turnover teaching labor (especially TFA). However, some of these former TFAers will be groomed to become test-driven privatizing principals and superintendents via such avenues as New Leaders for New Schools. And through them, the virus of school system destruction via privatization will spread.
In short, this candidate agrees to undermine school board authority, traditionally trained, career teachers and administrators, and community schools. In doing so, this candidate will cripple (and possibly destroy) the local school system.
As to the increasing of magnet schools: In the Orleans Parish school system, former magnet schools have become “selective admissions” charters— creaming schools that allow charter proponents to showcase how “choice is working.” Additionally, requiring an increase in magnet schools draws higher-performing (translate that into better-testing) students away from other schools in a district, making the remaining schools likelier to receive lower school letter grades– thereby increasing the opportunity for “choice” to step in and “turn around” such schools (translate that into charter takeover by those with zero community investment and the death of community schools).
I must add, my favorite part of the above sabotaging agreement is the stipulation of “implementing sound financial practices”– which I thought might involve requiring regular charter school audits– but, no. Just increased opportunity for the FBI to investigate charter schools. (Just google “FBI charter schools” for lots more reading.)
As to charter “co-locating”– New York’s Eva Moskowitz has been the pushy broad on this front. (I wrote a chapter on Moskowitz’s co-location dealings. It’s in my book, A Chronicle of Echoes, and it just so happens that readers can view the entire chapter on Amazon.com for free by clicking this link.) Ironically, Moskowitz has named her schools “Success Academies”– but according to data publicly available in New York, her schools are “built on lies.”
But back to this well-funded PAC and its “Committee for a Better _______” front.
What can one do to combat the takeover of local school boards by candidates who have taken cash to sell off their own community schools?
The following suggestions come from retired teacher and Louisiana traditional public school activist Lee Barrios:
It is important for supporters of public education to attend any and all public forums for school board candidates in their district and neighboring districts and to make every effort to ask the following questions of the candidates. These questions can also be asked of candidates in written form.
(Most forums require questions to written and submitted, so prepare by typing or writing legibly your questions on index cards.)
Have you or will you pledge your support to any individual organization or PAC that you will agree to follow a specific agenda as a member of the school board? That agreement might include but is not limited to:
Solicit charter proposals
Allow charters to co-locate in public school facilities
Support or encourage recruitment if teachers through Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools or The New Teacher Project
Nationally recruit school principals
Implement strict rules that would prohibit school board members from interfering with superintendent duties
Expand magnet schools
Perform a national search for district superintendent when that position is open
In sum, do not hesitate to ask school board candidates if they have entered into agreements to privatize the local school system. And if they have, send a message by sharing what you know about them and not voting for them.
I know I will be asking as much about the candidate with the billboard on that vacant lot on that major highway near my home.
Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education
NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.