Critics of traditional public schools and their teachers often say that we are against charter schools and vouchers for private schools because we are afraid of competition.
They are absolutely correct.
We are scared of competition, but not for the reasons you may think.
It’s not about our jobs, although charter schools and private schools often pay their teachers less and don’t allow them to collectively bargain their contracts to ensure fair workplace conditions. Without some level of job protection, will these teachers speak out against policies that they deem harmful to students? Will they blow the whistle on unethical business practices?
Competition is, at it’s core, ugly.
Competition means having an innovative new way to education children and NOT sharing it with other schools. Proponents of competition assume that they main driver of good teaching is the desire to be better than other teachers. If teachers/schools are not forced to compete, why would they work to improve their craft? This type of thinking has led to wrong-headed ideas like merit pay. Anyone with a few fond memories of their school days knows that their teachers were not motivated by the desire to one-up their colleagues.
It’s about the students and our nation as a whole. To demolish our public school system is to demolish the foundations of democracy. School choice is the new “separate but equal”. As much as people like to see education as an individual right, it is also a collective responsibility. If we leave our most vulnerable students behind in crumbling, defunded public schools because they are not admitted into charter or private schools, everyone loses.
The entire premise behind charter and private schools is that they are allowed to operate outside of the constraints of the laws that govern traditional public schools. Pesky laws like the requirement to accept and serve all children, regardless of their special needs or parental involvement. Many non-tradition public schools require a certain commitment on the parents’ part, such as volunteer hours. (http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/ed...) This is a commitment that many parents cannot afford.
While some laws, like IDEA, should be followed by all schools, there are others that do not apply to private schools that should be done away with altogether. The high-stakes testing requirements heaped on public schools has put them at a disadvantage when compared to their more flexible competitors. We are forced to fight with one hand tied behind our back and then we are blamed when we lose.
In his speech before a joint session of Congress a few nights ago, Trump highlighted the story of a former Duval County public school student who found success at a private school. This is by no means an attack on her. I’m glad she found success. The problem is, her success came at a cost.
The cost is the draining of taxpayer dollars from public schools. The cost is that every other student at those public schools now gets a little less. I’m willing to bet that the public school that she attended was underfunded, understaffed, and overregulated. I’m willing to bet that her teachers were overworked and under resourced. I’m willing to bet her school didn’t meet class size amendment requirements.
Clay County is currently looking at approximately 30 allocation cuts due to the fact that we have to shell out approximately $2.5 million dollars to yet another charter school that has opened up in our county. A few students get the benefit (given the track record of some of our other charter schools, I use this term loosely) while EVERY OTHER STUDENT in our public schools loses.
If the plan is to completely dismantle public schools, it is working. Step 1: Take away their funding. Step 2: Point out how poorly they are doing (never mind whether this is true or not - it’s amazing how quickly the weeds of fear can spread by planting just a few seeds of doubt). Step 3: offer an alternative to the “failing schools” (an alternative that often profits someone with connections to the people who did the defunding). Step 4: Wash, rinse, repeat.
So while you are applauding the successes of those who were better served elsewhere, please remember that we are robbing Peter to educate Paul.