ALEC and Charter Schools are the New Dog and Pony Show

Lasix: Enough of the dog-and-pony shows ...

This is how the charter movement sweeping across states and cities starts. Like this:

Last week I attended a dog and pony show being hosted at Towson University and sponsored by The Arthur Rupe Foundation and led by Maryland Public Policy Institute, Heritage Foundation, National Alliance for Charter Schools and the CEO of KIPP Schools. Dr. Dallas Dance, Supt of Baltimore County Schools; Dr. Nancy Grasmick, Presidential Scholar at TU; and Sean Johnson of MSEA gave the window dressing to give it the appearance of including a “public” voice. The event was touted as nonpartisan and open to the public. Both claims was about as true as claiming that Fruit Loops is part of a nutritious breakfast because it’s got “real fruit juice.” Well….soooorttt of….I guess. For more on each of the panelists and sponsors see my previous post about this.

Since reformers pushing charter school tsunamis washing over cities across the country have little real data or proof that their scheme works, they must rely of some tricks probably learned from the makers of Fruit Loops:

1)      Manufacture data that appears official and real –though evades any close scrutiny. Don’t read the actual ingredients in tiny print on the side of the box.

2)      Create the appearance of the event as being both “official” and “open.” Before the panel discussion there was wine and cheese! Ooohhh. And fruit. A policy making cocktail party! They had a huge red and shiny banner behind the panelist forum up on a big stage—great for photo ops so that the event looks “oh so important” and legitimate! And everyone there seemed to work for the non- profits being represented. I saw nary an educator, parent, or even professors from Towson University, where the event was held.  Why? Perhaps because the event was never really advertised…except in select places to select people. The people they wanted to have in the audience. Add to that the $35.00 registration fee. For what I wonder? Since the whole event had already been paid for/sponsored by Arthur Rupe. (So here was have a financially and geographically challenging event with little publicity…all to discuss the future of PUBLIC education.)

3)      Get the media to cover the event. The moderator was Mary Bubala of channel WJZ news. Woo hoo!

You see, the purpose of this event was never to garner REAL debate, discussion, or public inclusion. The purpose was to create the ILLUSION that public discussion and debate was had and that therefore the new charter reform initiatives we will be seeing in Maryland can appear to be legitimate. But I was there. Me and my two colleagues Bess Altwerger and Cole Reilly…and about 100 pro pro-charter reformers. Clearly….we did not fit in.

I saw a bunch of well-heeled folks who knew each other, and had been invited no doubt by their respective pro charter non-profit affiliates, to ensure that the audience were largely supporters of their agenda. They hob knobbed and chatted and drank wine. And then cheered one another on as the panelists, all of whom (with the exception of the one teacher-Shaun Johnson) to varying degrees advocated for more charter schools. Jason, CEO of KIPP and Lindsay Burke of Heritage Foundation, and Nina Reese of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools all claimed that Maryland MUST broaden its charter school policies –well, simply because, well…they must! (How else will these poor folks make their next million dollar bank rolls off of public school children?) Dr. Grasmick and Dr. Dance, though perhaps more cautious and skeptical, still appeared in support of such general initiatives. Not a single person on the panel had a REAL oppositional stance. Not a single person on the panel could address the real world issues and research which has revealed the serious and REAL flaws associated with charter school movements.  In other words: There was no real debate. The event was led largely by pro charter/privatization organizations, and funded by a pro charter/privatization foundation. Each of the foundations represented on the panel have direct or indirect connections with ALEC’s agenda to privatize public education.

But what do they really think of the poor children (aka the “unwashed masses”) they claim to wish to serve?

Founding creator of Heritage Foundation Paul Weyrich refers to public schools as “the enemy.” Hmmm. Maybe that’s why they love charter schools! Because it’s a means towards the elimination of public education? At least that much does appear to be true about charter schools.

The Maryland Public Policy Institute (MPPI) published a 2012 article stating that the reason poor people are poor is their lack of “founding virtues of marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity that the people in the upper class still follow.” I see. Poor people are dishonest lazy atheists. Oh, and the MPPI article mention something about “genetic superiority”. I swear to god I am not making this up.  Maybe that’s why poor black and bown kids need charter schools? To “civilize” them? Or perhaps to ensure that the new urbane white urbanites repopulating the metropolitan landscape will have a place to send little Bubsy. Either way, data across the country has shown over and over that charter schools have INCREASED segregation. That little tid bit was never mentioned at the panel event.

National Alliance of Public Charter schools is funded by Walton Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Eli Broad Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Ok…this is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Their financial and ideological interests in colonizing entire cities with the spawn of KIPP is self-evident.

You see, reformers don’t need facts. They’ve got money. And money can make illusions appear real. With enough money you can host and populate your event under some thin veil of legitimacy, and pass it off as “official” and sell it out into the public narrative as “fact.”  They make star studded Hollywood tear jerkers like Won’t Back Down and Waiting for Superman. They know that most people are attracted to hype rather than reality. Can Maryland learn anything from New York, New Orleans, Philadlephia or Chicago?

If you really want to know what charter school expansion will REALLY do to our schools, put down the koolaid and cheese, stop allowing yourself to be duped, and see for yourself at these more credible sites:

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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