Is the NAACP’s Charter School Moratorium an “Edge” for a “Political Machine”?
Richard Whitmire is a former editorial writer for USA Today. He has written several books. Among them is one about education leaving males behind; highly controversial former DC chancellor Michelle Rhee wrote the foreword for this book. Whitmire then decided to write a book about Michelle Rhee, The Bee Eater, described in brief as “the inside story of a maverick reformer with a take-no-prisoners management style.”
I too wrote about Michelle Rhee, both on my blog and in my first book. I describe her as a sociopath who dodged any accountability for suspiciously rising DC test scores that plummeted once she was no longer DC chancellor.
Still another of Whitmire’s books is on Rocketship charter schools. In June 2016, NPR wrote about Rocketship Education, and it cited Whitmire’s book:
“Students rotating into Learning Labs meant employing fewer teachers,” Whitmire writes. “Thus a school such as Rocketship Mosaic could successfully serve 630 students with only 6 teachers plus aides.”
Whitmire is impressed with the Rocketship model. However, NPR also mentioned very large numbers of children left under the supervision of incompletely trained adults and describes the turnover of these “learning lab supervisors” as “”chronic.”
NPR also noted that Rocketship students are discouraged from using the bathroom to such a degree that kids “were getting urinary tract infections.” Not to worry: What it disallowed in bathroom breaks Rocketship made up for in computerized test retakes, so much so that at one Rocketship campus, “superiors found retesting to be so rampant that they disabled the refresh button the following year.”
Finally, Whitmire just published another book, this one called, The Founders: Inside the Revolution to Invent (and Reinvent) America’s Best Charter Schools.
On October 17, 2016, education blogger Jennifer Berkshire interviewed Whitmire about his Founders book, which is available on Kindle as of August 28, 2016, and which just happens to be published by “the new Michelle Rhee,” Campbell Brown’s, The 74 Media.
The timing of Berkshire’s interview of Whitmire came fresh on the heels of the NAACP’s October 15, 2016, ratifying of its resolution on a charter school moratorium.
Berkshire asks Whitmire about the NAACP decision (and also that of Black Lives Matter).
His response? Very much in keeping with Campbell Brown’s focus:
According to Whitmire, the union is the force to be reckoned with here, not the NAACP, and not Black Lives Matter.
It’s all about political base construction, says Whitmire. And even though parents cannot elect charter school boards– and they cannot decide to be on charter school boards unless they are appointed– charter choice is all about parental empowerment.
EduShyster: Let’s start at the end of your new book, The Founders: Inside the revolution to invent (and reinvent) America’s best charter schools. You wrap up with three challenges facing charter school expansion, one of which is what you call *the charter pushback movement.* It seems to be gaining steam, even since the book came out. How concerned are you about, say, the NAACP moratorium or the Black Lives Matter platform which makes many of the same demands?
Whitmire: I’m concerned about it because any time you start playing race cards it gets a little dicey. I think the unions are pushing any edge that they can get in this battle and they’re doing quite a good job of it. Frankly it doesn’t surprise me at all because if you’re looking at this from a political perspective, in other words, how to build a political base in *x* city, then the traditional school system—forced assignment, no charters—really works out better for you. I saw that in Washington DC when I was doing the Rhee book. Marion Barry had that Department of Education just overflowing with people. It was all part of his political machine. And it worked out really really well for him and it worked out really really well for the people who were employed there. The only people it didn’t work out well for were the kids. But from a political machine point of view, that’s the model you want. That’s the model that’s preferable. So it’s understandable why they’d push for that. But again, you have to look at those who are aspiring to be political leaders or already are and then those parents, and I come back again and again to those 4,000 parents on the waiting list for the Brooke Charter School in Boston. They’re all either Black or Hispanic. Who are you going to listen to: the NAACP or those parents? I choose the latter.
Somehow Whitmire jumps from union to mayor and department of education. Perhaps to him they are one and the same. Or perhaps Whitmire believes that the NAACP charter moratorium is the outcome of a national group whose individuals are each only thinking of leveraging their political ambitions and using the moratorium as a cog in that “political machine.”
What is amazing is that Whitmire completely dismisses the idea that charter schools, their unelected boards, and their management organizations could possibly concoct their own bottom-line-serving machines– an idea recently brought to light by the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report publicized on September 29, 2016.
Here is what the NAACP wants of charter schools:
We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
Who are you going to listen to? Campbell Brown-backed Richard Whitmire or the NAACP?
I choose the NAACP.
If charter school advocates were really behind parents, they would advocate for parental presence in the decision making role– as in on those charter school boards. Such a move would open the door to the level of transparency the NAACP is seeking.
But such transparency surely would interfere with the business-model, top-down-styled excuse of “choice” advocated by the likes of Rhee, and Brown, and Whitmire.