A charter school can be a community school, and vice versa.
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
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.