An open letter to parents of students in New York City:
You may or may not be aware of what has been occurring within our public education system across the nation, particularly here in the city. Public education is under attack by forces that wish to privatize our public schools for profit. The cap for charter schools has now been lifted with the number of charters likely to double soon.
City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, along with some major foundations and Wall Street hedge fund managers, are lined up to “reform” public education. They want to see the teachers unions broken, senior teachers removed and teacher’s jobs as temporary ones. These forces are spending a lot of money to buy support from politicians to publicly support charter school expansion.
They also control the media, which has launched an all-out attack on educators in order to turn public opinion against them. On any given day you can read anti-teacher or pro-charter articles in any of the major papers.
Making it all happen is a network of reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses with reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates.
Gates; U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, founder of Teach for America, a recruiter of business people and college graduates who sign contracts to teach for two years in inner-city schools; Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp; and Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network.
The original premise of charter schools was to help children who need extra assistance. What has happened under the leadership of Klein is that charters are now competing with public schools. Charters cherry-pick their students, thereby ensuring their success. Charters are given more resources than local public schools. Local public schools are becoming overwhelmed with more overcrowding, higher numbers of poor-performing students and educators, parents and students whose concerns continue to be ignored.
Charters should be allowed to co-exist with public schools, but not to the detriment of public schools. Charters should exist in their own spaces and use their own resources and money. The use of taxpayer money for charters is unacceptable — especially since there is no oversight of them.
The leader of this movement here in the city is Klein. He is the chairman of the Eli Broad Foundation’s board of directors — a conflict of interest since he is a public school chancellor — and has been working tirelessly to weaken public schools. He has most notably weakened the city’s large high schools by reducing resources, overcrowding those schools and forcing them to share their spaces with charters, among other things.
The latest target is Bayside High School. Klein wants to increase the school’s population by 1,000 students and increase the special education population by 40 percent. For a chancellor who loves to create small schools, making Bayside a larger school goes against what he has been preaching all along.
You may be wondering why these wealthy guys are taking such an interest in our public school system. There is a simple answer: money. People who invest money in a charter school are entitled to a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government called the New Markets tax credit. In addition, they make money on the interest on loans to build new schools. The investor’s money is virtually doubled in seven years. This tax credit is being used heavily here in the city.
These are my questions: Do we really wish to trust individuals motivated by profit and using their business tactics in our schools to reform education? Why should we let the same folks who wrecked our economy do the same with our schools?