I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How To Destroy the Teaching Corps: Use Charter Schools

Charter schools have proven very useful to plutocrats for a variety of reasons:

- They help make already wealthy people even more money: see here, here and here for just a few examples. Those of you on newspaper editorial boards who live in denial of money making potential of charter schools are willingly obtuse.

- They provide an excuse for not raising taxes on the wealthy to full fund urban schools, as charter cheerleaders can claim they "do more with less." The problem is that they do not serve the same student populations as public schools, so the comparison is specious.

- They often engage in a pedagogy of compliance, training young people not to question authority through critical thinking. This, of course, is very useful if you have a corporation and you want servile employees who live in constant fear that you may take their jobs if you don't accede to their blackmail.

But there's another reason charters are so helpful to the hedgehogs and banksters and Masters of the Universe: they are breaking up unionized teacher workforces.

Here are some examples from my backyard [all emphases mine]. Let's start in Hudson County, NJ:
At least 63 employees of the Hoboken Board of Education will be laid off due to cuts in the board’s 2014 budget, Superintendent of Schools Mark Toback said on Thursday. Additionally, six of the district’s early childhood classrooms are being transferred to a contracted preschool provider, costing at least three teachers their jobs.

Toback said the layoffs are the result of a variety of factors, including a decline in the state aid typically offered to the district and the rising costs the district must pay the city’s various charter schools each year. 

Finally, the district will pay the city’s three charter schools $8.3 million this year, up from $7.5 million last year. That number has doubled since 2010, when the district only had to give $4.1 million for the charters. The district is given extra aid to cover the charters too, but recently the board has complained that the cost is still too much.

The board has aroused controversy recently by opposing the state-granted expansion of the Hoboken Dual-Language Charter School (HoLa) to eighth grade. The state is concerned that HoLa could cost around $1.25 million in the next few years – though it’s unclear how much of that would be covered by state aid. School officials have recently said the charters are “bankrupting” the district.

A spokeswoman for HoLa has called the district blaming layoffs on charter costs “unfair.”
Oh, it's "unfair" all right: unfair that Hoboken's charters serve far fewer kids in economic disadvantage proportionally than HPS does, all while getting results that are no better than other schools in Hudson County, which serve many more children eligible for free lunch:

Tell me: is the mediocre performance of Hoboken's charter sector really worth ruining the lives of the 63 families that will suffer from these budget cuts?

On to Camden:
Ever seen an old, worn-down punching bag hanging lonely in the back corner of a run-down gym? That's Camden, which has repeatedly suffered blow after blow following years of negligence, public corruption and gross incompetence.
It was delivered another body blow on Thursday, when news broke that in an effort to cut costs, Camden School District will lay off about 400 people, 300 coming directly from schools.
Noted in the news was the fact that enrollment has declined by nearly 1,000 over the last five years, making the current budget unsustainable. That decline isn't serendipitous or surprising - kids are increasingly being shifted to the 10 charter schools operating within the district. Four more charters have been recently approved.
In fact, back in March 2013, then-interim superintendent Reuben Mills told school board members that while he wanted to do everything possible to keep students enrolled in traditional schools, he expected about 900 students be lost to new charters. 

In 2012-13, Camden's charter schools enrolled 22.4 percent of all public students, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 3,644 students are enrolled in Camden charter schools, up from 2,545 just five years ago. 
There are your 1,000 students, seems Mills was right on the money. Expect things to get worse, not better, for Camden's public schools.
Charters do have the advantage of selecting their students, allowing them to cherry-pick the best and brightest while relegating students in need to decreasingly-funded public schools. Is it any wonder charters tend to outperform their public school counterparts?
All I'm saying is don't get behind a podium and pretend the declining enrollment in Camden schools isn't premeditated, planned and encouraged by all the major stakeholders involved in determining the city's education future.
That's from the great Rob Tornoe: apparently, a sports cartoonist is capable of understanding the truth about charter schools while the editorial page chief of the state's largest paper, the Star-Ledger, is not.

Tornoe is absolutely right: the charter shift is certainly premeditated, and the outcome -- the decimation of the professional teaching staff in Camden -- is unquestionably a result both Chris Christie and George Norcross have sought for some time.

Of course, the template for all of this is Newark:
Newark school officials are considering laying off more than 100 employees in the central office, according to union and school officials. In addition, district officials will cut teacher ranks through retirements and by not renewing about 100 non-tenured teachers who work on annual contracts, officials said. 
Also, as part of the restructuring, school officials said, as many as 55 parent liaisons who work in the schools will be laid off but the district said many may be rehired. 
The potential cuts were announced at several meetings Friday and are part of the state-operated district’s attempt to close a $42 million budget gap, School Advisory Board chairman Rashon Hasan said.
You have to give state superintendent Cami Anderson's administration (many of whom, like Anderson herself, were under the anti-teacher tutelage of Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg in NYC) credit: they know how to manage expectations. Back in February, Bob Braun was reporting that NPS was considering laying off 700 teachers; now, cutting 100 looks like less of a big deal.

And Anderson's staff is now saying they don't need to pursue the illegal waiver to seniority they sought before; again, it looks like a victory for the teachers when it's really anything but.

Newark's public school system is being systematically dismantled. The plan was evident years ago: underfund the public schools, allow charters to spring up, oversell those charters' "successes," and leave many parents with no choice but to abandon their neighborhood schools.

But in Newark, there's been an additional twist: under Anderson, a culture of fear has been imposed on the teaching staff. A merit pay system that's a scam. Principals fired for daring to speak their minds. Employees sanctioned for their bathroom conversations. "Renew" schools, where the entire staff has to reapply for their jobs -- even at schools that perform well when accounting for their student population characteristics. It all adds up to a culture of staff repression: speak up for yourself, and you'll pay a heavy price. 

Just yesterday, the entire administrative staff of University High was terminated, even though NPS itself, in the One Newark application (which is an unjustifiable mess), says the school is "Great." There's only one reason for this action: it's designed to put fear into "uppity" staff members. Standing up for yourself, you see, is just not allowed in Chris Christie's New Jersey.

Of course, this phenomenon isn't limited to the Garden State. Chicago, New York City, Tennessee, North Carolina... teachers are under attack everywhere. And everywhere teachers are under attack, you're sure to find charter schools on the rise.

Right now, it's the best union-breaking and teacher corps-busting tool the reformy class has.

Copyright 2011 Barry Deutsch

ADDING: It would be wrong to say the culture of fear is limited to Newark; after all, Paymon Rouhanifard, state superintendent of Camden, also made his bones in the Klein/Bloomberg NYCDOE. And it looks like he learned his lessons about suppressing teacher dissent well:
Following Wednesday's student walkouts protesting teacher layoffs, Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard issued guidelines to district officials stating that while students should be shown some leniency, teachers who participated will be "disciplined." 
The email, provided to the South Jersey Times by the district, stresses that "students need to be in school," and that any protests should take place outside of the school day. He added that disciplinary actions against students who stage future walkouts should avoid suspensions and expulsions. 
"Students need to be in school, and suspending students will only take students out of the classroom," reads the email, sent shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday. 
"If students continue to leave school, responses should be adjusted accordingly. 
"But now is the time to engage students, in school, to hear out their concerns and share accurate information." 
School employees will be shown much less latitude with regard to their behavior. According to the email, staff members who left school early on Wednesday to join the protests "will be disciplined." 
In the email, Rouhanifard asked school principals to provide the names, positions and departure times of all staff members who walked out. 
"Obviously, staff members have the right to share their opinions, too, but any demonstrating needs to happen outside of the work day," said Rouhanifard in the email.
I'm sure Paymon Rouhanifard, with his whopping two years of teaching experience, would have known just how to handle this situation. Better to, say, chain the students into the schools and create a potential safety hazard than allow them to express themselves safely...

More to come.


Jay Blain said...

The cartoon forgot to mention the gold plated benefits and pensions of teachers that helped to crash the economy as well.

Michael Fiorillo said...

No, Jay, you forgot to mention that you apparently are a human echo chamber for Big Lies.

Teresa said...

Jay, please educate yourself before you formulate an opi ion.