The Blues City is earning its name when it comes to public schools. Both the Broad and Gates Foundations have seen to it.
The other day I posted about cuts to Memphis (Shelby County Schools). I was quickly reminded, rightly so, that these were proposed cuts—like maybe there would be some kind of rollback in the days to come and it wouldn’t be so bad.
So I waited. School districts everywhere have always created unstable end-of-the-year doom and gloom forecasting. Non-tenured teachers get pink slipped and race to find jobs in other schools, or they figure how to live without a job. It’s a terrible way to run a school system, but it is a process everyone has sadly gotten used to.
Instead of better news in Memphis, however, now parents learn there might even be more cuts in the way of school closures. Ten public schools, democratic public schools owned by the people, are set to be shuttered. Think Chicago, Philly or New Orleans. Think LA and NYC.
Like I said the other day–think America.
School board member and businessman Billy Orgel said “I’m for closing the charters that aren’t performing. I’m for closing our own schools that aren’t performing.” I think he said that because people in Tennessee have come to realize that the charter school system called the Achievement School District (ASD), is not achieving.
But if they close a charter they will just replace it with another charter—likely a for-profit. Not that there is much difference between nonprofit or for-profit charter schools.
Many know a charter school system is in the works for Memphis. The Shelby County School Board should just tell everyone that instead of ripping the band-aid off slowly.
The Broad Foundation, which is all about charter schools, had their outside school board group work with the now defunct Memphis City School Board before the big Memphis City/County school turmoil years ago. Voila…the ASD!
Here is Broad’s “shake up the school district privatization plan.” And here is Broad’s updated plan to turn all public schools in Los Angeles into charters. Broad, like Gates, is everywhere when it comes to privatizing public schools. He also calls charters public schools, but only the money that flows to the charters is public.
And making an all-charter school system isn’t the only privatization ploy in Memphis.
The Chalkbeat informs us that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is going to lend a hand to the current school crisis there.
Gates is not going to help fund the gaps in special education. Wouldn’t that have been a nice gesture? But no.
He is not going to support the iZone schools or the teachers there who have made progress either. Nor is he going to lend money to any support that would bolster real public schools directly.
Gates is laser-focused on remaking teaching into fast-track (preferably online) programs like the Relay Graduate School of Education or Teach for America, or other like groups that will dismantle the profession. He has already spent $90 million in Memphis to do this and $700 million across the country for similar initiatives.
Also, the struggling school district has spent $82 million (tax dollars) on the Gates plan to remake teaching in Memphis, and local businesses have spent $17 million.
The following is from the Chalkbeat linked above. Pay attention to the word “overhaul.”
The extension will ensure that the district’s Gates-funded work to overhaul the way it hires, trains and supports teachers and principals will not be sacrificed as the school system tries to balance its $950 million budget for 2016-17.
So as the cuts to public schools keep coming, rest assured, Broad and Gates and others in the business community will keep insisting on charter schools and Gates will keep going after the teaching profession.
Ultimately, I think this will lead to all charter schools and facilitators (instead of teachers) for online instruction. Think Rocketship which has already invaded Nashville.
If I didn’t cling to some hope I would not write about any of this. I entertain the idea that public schools will be saved still.
But it also isn’t a bad idea today to listen to the blues in Memphis and beyond when it comes to public schools….
Máté Wierdl says
My understanding is that the schools that will be closed have lots of empty spaces in them. I wonder who is going to move in into those buildings. I bet, they have a plan already.
Nancy Bailey says
Good point. Eventual charters? They are sometimes left vacant to deteriorate in some cities.
MARIDEE Cornell says
The schools are the list are SIGNIFICANTLY underutilized – like 200 kids in a high school built for 1500. Previous schools boards did a lousy job of forecasting, zoning, and adapting to the extremely migratory population of Memphis. There is an $86M shortfall due to the fact that the city of Memphis is refusing to contribute to the former debt of their piss poor management and the large deficit in funding from the state. Most of these schools should have been closed years ago. The schools have hundreds of thousands in deferred maintenance and the monthly utility bills are higher than teachers salaries. The charters are consistent low performers in former school buildings. Most buildings will be raised and sold. This school board and the country commission are both anti-charter.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree with part of what you say Maridee. Schools have not been well-funded for years and there has probably been some mismanagement. Thank you for your comment.
Ken Derstine says
In Philadelphia, it can clearly be seen that this is by design. The public schools have been deliberately under funded since the state takeover in 2001, and charters have steadily built up as attractive to parents as the public schools deteriorate. It is a deliberate privatization agenda. You can read this history on my blog: The current situation is described in my three-part (so far) series Riding the ‘Turnaround ‘ Merry-Go-Round in Philadelphia Public Schools http://www.defendpubliceducation.net
Also see past article (panel on right side)
The 2013-14 “Doomsday Budget” of the School District of Philadelphia: How Did It Come to This?
Bill Green’s Education Agenda: Hidden In Plain Sight
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for sharing, Ken. I have known for a long time that Philadelphia had a lot of charters but I learned more about it. Worrisome. I also find it interesting how so many of these cities follow the same pattern. Relay Graduate School seems to be everywhere now.