In “Dismantling a Community,” the Institute for Community Change attacks the “drive to sell-off New Orleans schools” and mourns the “dual tragedies of Katrina and school privatization.” In short, while few district-run public schools have reopened in New Orleans, new charter schools have opened to provide choices for children previously trapped in a disastrously bad school system. Quite a tragedy.
“Dismantling” decries charter founders’ vision.
It is a vision that disdains the public sector and those who work within it. It is a vision based on competition and economic markets. It is a vision of private hands spending public funds.
Most disturbing, it is a vision that casts families and students as “customers,” who shop for schools in isolation from – and even in competition with – their neighbors.
Will the horrors never cease?
On Edspresso, Ryan Boots critiques the picture of a rich mosaic of happy learners who just happened to have very low achievement scores. Boots writes:
I’m glad they were learning some “important life lessons” in those schools, because they weren’t learning much else. To my mind, this begs the question: so long as the schools were serving the purpose of socialization, how bad would the schools have had to deteriorate academically before the authors considered them failures? Go back and look at the stats: New Orleans wasn’t even bringing half of its students to basic levels of understanding in English and math.
. . . As they openly acknowledge, public schools in New Orleans have long been fractured along lines of race and class. I’d say this shows the schools demonstrably failed in what the authors assert is the school’s higher calling: to unite, integrate, and collectivize.
Schools of choice organized around a shared mission really can create a sense of community. That’s harder to do when parents can’t shop around for a school that fits their child’s needs and interests. I’d bet very few parents, given a choice, would list “rich mosaic” as a higher priority than academic achievement for their child’s school.