One reason, probably the biggest, that progressives always seem to be on the defensive when it comes to the debate over education, is that we don’t agree among ourselves, on a lot of the issues related to it. The conservative agenda is simple: bash (based on lies), push for privatization (that is, greedhead profiteering), replace any emphasis on rational, humane thought with one on implanting rote and right-wing dogma, etc. This state of affairs makes both messaging and coordinated action a lot easier for them. As do their foolishness and shamelessness, but I digress.
Take, for example, charter and alternative schools. Plenty of progressives revile them, but they have “bipartisan support,” overall. (Yes, I’m suspicious of the “Center for Education Reform,” too, but that particular page serves my purpose, here.) So, is there any chance of achieving some kind of progressive “unity,” more or less, on the issue?
More below the fold
In a report released last September, MN State Auditor Rebecca Otto went after one alternative school. This Minneapolis Star Tribune article, which to my astonishment has not been archived to pay-per-view as of the date of this diary, is easier reading:
Otto’s report arrives amid rising skepticism of management and financial practices at a range of nontraditional education providers, from charter schools to schools for dropouts.
Despite serving almost 150,000 full- or part-time students, the state’s 300-plus taxpayer-funded alternative programs operate with little monitoring, and their finances face much less scrutiny than those of school districts and charter schools, she said. Alternative learning centers operate outside the conventional school system, and are designed to serve students who have been expelled or otherwise have trouble succeeding in conventional classrooms.
My understanding is that charter and alternative schools were originally intended to deal with the needs of kids facing special challenges, and that many are doing a good job of precisely that. I would be the last to suggest not supporting those. But apparently, somewhere along the line, too many have fallen into the hands of the incompetent and/or the profiteers. Many of the for-profit schools are actually pulling the most advantaged students from the public system, making their shareholders a lot of money while entirely perverting their orignal intent. And the market fundamentalists and delusional ideologues responsible for that mess need to be broken and driven like swine.
I think a general degree of loose agreement can be reached, that there is a place for charter and alternative schools, as described in the previous paragraph, as long as they are non-profit and well-regulated, in deed as well as word. And properly funded.* But getting there in real life, in our current socio-political environment…it’s worth working toward, but success will be as challenging as all the other issues facing our educational system, thanks primarily to the political power of idiot conservatives.
*Just noting that claims, beloved of the righties, that there is no connection between education spending and outcomes, are irrelevant bs. The bottom line is that, except for a handful of the swankiest private academies, none of our schools are being provided with adequate resources to fully succeed, given the obstacles provided by our poverty-ridden, anti-intellectual culture. Warmongering still has to be a higher priority, you know.