A charter school can be a community school, and vice versa.
~National Center for Community Schools
There’s new school management these days that might seem nice, but scratch beneath the service and it is privatization and the theft of America’s democratic public schools.
There are two points in this blog post.
- Community schools might be charter schools in disguise.
- Partnerships can steal school ownership from the community.
The Community Schools Deception
The idea of “community schools” evokes a sense of belonging. We see ourselves connected with others, our voices heard, and our children surrounded by adults who are eager to address their needs.
Some community schools meet this objective. They’re truly public schools, open to all children, and owned by the community which they represent. The school board is the governing body elected by those who live in the community.
These community schools demonstrate the best of a democracy, especially when they are diverse and inclusive.
Americans trust this concept. In a post heralding community schools Minneapolis blogger Sarah Lahm writes The support for community schools stands in stark contrast to previous city efforts behind market-based education reform.
But is it a stark contrast? Could our trust in community schools be used by the charter school industry to co-opt public schools?
Charter schools are not community schools.
And any school relying heavily on partnerships with business threatens to take the “public” out of public schools.
Ohio’s Charter/Virtual/Community Schools
I’ve written before how charter schools are called community schools in Ohio! (see State of Ohio)
The Ohio Council of Community Schools advertisement also emphasizes virtual schools. It’s difficult to see how virtual schools could be community schools.
From the Ohio website:
We seek partnerships that allow schools to not only thrive but innovate, and hold high standards for ourselves and others.
They were home to the controversial e-school called ECOT, Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow riddled with scandal. ECOT closed, leaving students to scramble to find other schools.
LAUSD: Charters or Community Schools?
The Los Angeles Unified School District is celebrating community schools after a huge march by teachers where one of the demands was a cap on charter schools. In 2020-2021 the LAUSD will transform 20 schools into community schools.
One UCLA adjunct writes about how nice it is that UCLA is partnering with public schools. A partnership with UCLA might seem nice. Universities have always worked with public schools. They do research and supply student teachers to professional teachers for on-the-job preparation.
But university ownership of public education is another ballgame. UCLA now owns the public school. It isn’t truly a community school. It’s a UCLA school. UCLA will dictate how the community will be involved.
It’s worth remembering too, that many university education schools are corrupted by corporate reform like K-12 education. UCLA supports Teach for America. Will they place TFA novices into the Los Angeles community schools they now own?
Will LAUSD transform their public schools into community schools that are actually charter schools?
The contract that ended the strike calls on the Los Angeles Unified School District to convert 30 schools in high need areas into community schools, “investing $400,000 in each one over two years.” Meanwhile, the agreement also includes a pledge that the school board will vote on a resolution asking the state to ‘establish a charter school cap’ and create a governor’s committee on charter schools.”
Dallas Partnerships Take Over Public Education
When partners sign up to take over public schools, the community must do what that business organization wants them to do. Tax dollars will mingle with the donation just like charters.
Dallas is selling their school district to school partners! From The Dallas Morning News: Dallas ISD Must Not Let Go of Plan to Partner with Private Operators for District Schools.
This sounds like a massive overhaul meaning Dallas is about to privatize all of their public schools! Yet it’s presented to the public as a necessary transformation.
The partners, not the public, will own Dallas’s public schools.
Questions When Dealing with Partners
If your school district is talking about community schools and partners here are some helpful hints.
- Make sure partners contribute to the goals of teachers and parents, or agree with the school’s agenda.
- Review the history of the partners and determine if they are a friend or foe to public education.
- Make sure the partnership doesn’t mean drastic changes to the school built on claims that the school district has failed.
- Does the partner use corporate reform talking points referring to failed schools?
- Is the partner known for their school reform initiatives?
- Exactly what will the changes mean to the school?
- Will teachers keep their jobs or be replaced?
- How many partners will there be?
- How many district schools will be taken over by partners?
- Will the partnership involve technology? How will it affect teaching?
- What kind of data will be collected on students and how will it be used?
- Outline the role of the partner and what their donation will do.
- Make sure the school board is still listening to their constituents and not outside philanthropists.
- Make sure community schools do not become charter schools.
- Read this blog post by Fordham University Professor Mark Naison called “How REAL Community Schools Differ from Charters that Adopt that Label.”
We live in a wealthy country that has the resources to support public schooling. Partnerships should be welcome as long as they do not destroy the ability of citizens to own their democratic public schools. If partners are replacing this ownership, it is school privatization and the end of public education.
We’re being led down the proverbial primrose path. When public schools embrace the community school concept, the school boards are selling us out because inherent in the idea of a community school is the sharing a children’s data with community partners to “justify” the investment those partners are making. Community Schools rank alongside charter schools, and we should all be wary of both. Public education is supposed to be free to those who use its services. If we have to give up our children’s data in exchange for a public education, public schools are no longer free and there is no access to a free public education.
So far, the marketing of community schools is phenomenal; however, keep in mind children’s data is being monetized. The elite mostly white men in charge and their think tanks and institutions seem to want to make sure they stay in charge as demographics change. Hence the collection of children social and emotional data and the tracking of children from the cradle to the adult grave. Right now there is a big push for preschools and community partners to help fund these schools. As data becomes more interoperable, it becomes more capable of being monetized and more valuable to those intent on monetizing it.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for this. It is part of the dark but real side of privatization.
“Make sure the partnership doesn’t mean drastic changes to the school built on claims that the school district has failed.”
I’m not sure why this hint was so high on the list. I’m new to the blog. Do you have any older articles that would help me understand why you think this is an obvious red flag? I’ve taught in both charter and public schools (currently taking time off to get my masters) and I do think our schools need a drastic overhaul. I’m not saying charter schools and privatization are the answer, but I do not understand why you are averse to reform in general.
I thank you in advance for your reply.
Jim Mordecai says
Publicly managed charter schools are a drastic reform that sucks funding from public schools and a reform that should end with a moratorium on charters in every state.
Nancy Bailey says
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Stacy, A trip to the library is in order or a search on line about the dangers of corporate school reform. Check out my books or look up articles on my blog. Public schools are not being funded and programs are cut. Why would you expect good schools under those conditions? And yet many teachers still manage to teach.
I must say that I’m a little disappointed in your reply. I asked you which articles of yours I should read in order to learn more about your point of view in regards to this topic, but your response was “read my articles.” Sure, I can dig for them myself, and I guess I will now, but I was asking for an authentic interaction. Also the entire response sounded a bit condescending.
I’ve been one of those teachers who still managed to teach, and I can tell you that there are a plethora of problems in the system that do not necessarily have to do with funding. For one, how much funding is wasted on brand new school-wide sets of exorbitantly priced curriculum every several years? There are so many components provided in these packaged kits that teachers don’t even feel the need to use. Put plain, old books in kids hands and let them dive in. We don’t need more dollars to spend on basal readers and workbooks and bells and whistles. I do agree that teachers are underpaid, and this is the real problem with funding cuts. We do need smaller class sizes and well-respected teachers, but funding is not the ONLY problem. There is a philosophical problem at the root of the system, which drives how we spend the money we already have.
On another note, which I’m pretty sure you’d agree with, the NCLB-induced age of accountability sounds alright in theory, but in practice, it does not seem to be working. I’ve seen the sausage being made, so to speak, in the public school I worked in and it’s not a pretty sight. I was once handed a thick stack of papers detailing the skills my “bubble” kids needed in order to get to the next level on the state assessment. These were the handful of children who “had a shot”. My admin smiled and said “of course we teach all children….” She all but winked at me. It made me a little sick.
When I said we need reform, these are the sorts of things I was talking about. As I stated above, I’m not sure why “reform” is a dirty word. It seems you misconstrued my statement to mean I am pro-privatization. I’m not entirely sure about my stance on that point, which is why I want more information, but I’m certainly not arguing for charter schools, just asking why any mention of reform is a red flag.
Nancy Bailey says
My whole blog is about the problems of corporate school reform.
Today’s school reform is not about the real reforms that are needed–like class size reduction, better buildings, etc. It’s about dismantling public schools and eliminating a professional teaching workforce.
It is about partnerships that end our democratic ownership. It is about making a profit on kids.
NCLB was a part of reform to destroy schools. I simply recommended you do some reading on the subject. Also check out my website for other blogs under “Activism” at the top of the page and books about the subject under reform.
ciedie aech says
well said 🙂
Roy Turrentine says
I wonder if you caught the NPR o. Reading instruction this morning? I thought you would find it something you have talked about before.
Nancy Bailey says
I checked. I think it is a replay of Emily Hanford’s piece. Thanks for letting me know.