Monday, October 2, 2017

Jersey Jazzman: Education "Reform" Is a Right-Wing Movement

Jersey Jazzman: Education "Reform" Is a Right-Wing Movement:

Education "Reform" Is a Right-Wing Movement

One of the perils of "success" is that it opens you up to increased scrutiny. Just ask Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the "successful" Success Academies chain of charter schools. Her constant self-promotion was nothing less than an open invitation to the press and others to take a look at how her schools achieved their "success."

Sure enough, a hard look at SA reveals disturbing disciplinary practices, a highly questionable curriculum, huge resource advantages (gained by appealing to wealthy donors and by wage "free riding" on public district schools), a distinctly different student population compared to neighboring public district schools, and patterns of significant student cohort attrition.

In other words: the "success" of Success Academies is largely attributable to the chain's ability to game the system. There's just no evidence Moskowitz and her staff have found any innovative, let alone scalable, methods to improve schooling for urban students.

But more recent scrutiny of SA has revealed something else: Moskowitz's financial patrons are much more closely aligned with the far political right than the current "reform" narrative would like us to believe.

The problems for Moskowitz on this front started last August, when the chairman of SA's board, Dan Loeb, compared an African-American New York state senator to the KKK:
The hedge fund manager Daniel S. Loeb, a prominent supporter of charter schools and a major financial backer of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and congressional Republicans, accused the African-American woman who leads the Democrats in the New York State Senate of having done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.” [emphasis mine]
Somewhat lost in the outrage, however, was the fact that this wasn't Loeb's first time getting caught saying something offensive and stupid. As Chalkbeat notes:

This isn’t the first offensive comment he’s made. Far from it, in fact. Loeb is fast-fingered on Facebook and frequently uses derogatory language to lash out at people who have made him unhappy. Here are a few of the examples that have been reported previously:

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sarah Mondale talks Backpack Full of Cash | Westword

Sarah Mondale talks Backpack Full of Cash | Westword:

Documentary Backpack Full of Cash Explores School Choice

Sarah Mondale.
Sarah Mondale.Courtesy of Stone Lantern Films

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New York-based filmmaker Sarah Mondale is no stranger to education. As a teacher, she's spent years seeing firsthand what makes public schools in the United States tick. And as a filmmaker, she's devoted much of her career to two documentaries exploring America's public schools. The latest, Backpack Full of Cashwhich premiered late last year, takes viewers inside public school systems on the East Coast to examine how the pivot toward "school choice" initiatives like charter schools and voucher programs impact the education system as a whole. In advance of a film screening tonight, Wednesday, September 27, at 7 p.m. at the Sie FilmCenter, Westword spoke with Mondale about the project's motivations and lessons.
Westword: Your family history is intertwined with public education. How does that inspire your work?
Sarah Mondale: My father was an American Studies professor. I come from a family of teachers. My mother taught English as a Second Language to adult students in the D.C. public schools, my grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Minnesota, I believe, and I was a teacher myself. And I had grown up with my father, who was from rural Minnesota originally, telling us kids that public schools were a pillar of American democracy.
And you’ve filmed education documentaries before?
I worked on a series called School: The Story of American Public Educationthat aired on PBS in 2001, and it was about the history of the democratic promise of public schools. It was narrated by Meryl Streep.
What are you seeing in education that pushed you into this project?
I’ve been a filmmaker all of my adult life, but I went into teaching after the PBS series aired and taught for about seven years. And after it aired, I began hearing this narrative that the public school system is broken, American public schools are failing, they are way below schools in other countries, and we need to get rid of this system and try something else – which means turning the schools over to the private sector in the form of charter schools [which are public schools that are privately run], vouchers to religious schools and private schools, and cyber-charter schools.
So the film explores privatization of the school system. But to be fair, public education isn't a perfect system.
While public schools do face challenges, especially in areas where there are large numbers of poor kids who are being educated, by and large the system is successful. I’m not downplaying the challenges that we face – we have to make public schools better – but the issue in this country is not that public schools are failing; they are unequal. We don’t want to throw away the school system that we have.
I saw this film called Waiting for Superman, which I felt to be kind of a propaganda piece about how charter schools have been a positive force in the lives of some children. And that’s true, I’m not denying that, but I felt what I wanted to look at was really, what is the impact of these programs on the kids in the public schools? We wanted to flip the perspective, and that was the goal of the film.
What is the "backpack full of cash?"
The idea of [charter-school advocates] is individual market-based choice – that you should be able to take money from the government and go shop for a school. Schools are not a consumer good like restaurants or supermarkets; they’re civic institutions. Once you reduce schooling to a mere “backpack full of cash,” this is draining and undermining public schools.
In the film, you explore change inSarah Mondale talks Backpack Full of Cash | Westword:
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Backpack Full of Cash -

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