Tuesday, October 13, 2009
A.R.E. Statement on Public Education in the Context of 'Public School Choice: A New Way at LAUSD'
By the Association of Raza Educators, Los Angeles Chapter
October 12, 2009
WE STAND FOR A FULLY FUNDED, CULTURALLY RELEVANT PUBLIC EDUCATION
We believe in a fully funded and truly public education. This means that federal and state bureaucracies should be responsible for providing an adequate and quality education for every child; and that all education policies and practices be fully inclusive of the voices of all stakeholders. Public education should remain a right and not a commodity that only a select few can purchase.
A.R.E. supports culturally relevant teaching, a curriculum that fosters critical thinking in our students, and an education for social justice grounded in students' lived experience. Without these, education reforms become complicit in the reproduction of particular ideologies: students who do not think for themselves, district officials who cannot see beyond a marketizing approach to education, and teachers who are de-skilled and removed from community organizing.
OUR VISION OF REFORM
We believe that education reform must be based on the principle of self-determination, where the voices of the primary stakeholders of public education-i. e. teachers, parents, and students-provide direction in the education process. Thus, all school governing bodies should include teachers, parents, and students in conjunction with democratically elected school officials. We strongly oppose the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) hierarchical, top-down, model of leadership.
Nevertheless, we recognize that leadership restructuring is not enough. However democratic schools become, inclusion of community voices in the education process will not change the education, political, and economic realities of poor students of color. Currently, 60% of Latino/a and 56% of African-American students in LAUSD are pushed out of school and tracked into the low-wage labor market, with a significant number entering the prison system.
The LAUSD motion, Public School Choice: A New Way at LAUSD, comes about in the wake of a budgetary crisis. As a quick fix to the historical abandonment and de-funding of public education in general, district officials are completely misguided in their attempt to 'reform' the crisis of public education without (a) a comprehensive understanding of the historical, political and economic institutions that have shaped public schools, and (b) without proper input from all primary stakeholders. Absent the voices of the people, LAUSD district officials have allowed themselves to be swayed by corporate and local political interests that have made this motion possible. Absent a historical analysis of the political and economic interests that have served to undermine public education, district officials fail to understand that education reform requires a restructuring of other institutions, such as the political, legal, and economic systems geared to reproduce the inequalities that we see today.
WE STAND AGAINST CORPORATE CHARTERS
Given the privatizing history of corporate charter schools, and how these schools apply selection criteria that exclude the participation of second language learners and students with special needs among others, the Association of Raza Educators Los Angeles Chapter opposes corporate charters and charter management companies (CMOs), such as Green Dot, that claim to offer a 'choice' for poor communities of color. Because parents in poor urban neighborhoods have been historically under-served, they are enticed by LAUSD's market 'solution' to education that purports to offer 'choice', 'equity', and 'access' to quality education through charterization and leadership restructuring.
WE SUPPORT THE ENDURING STRUGGLE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION
ARE stands in support of the efforts by teachers who are working to include community voices in this struggle for public education. Although opposed to corporate charters and charter management companies, we are not opposed to the educators who are working within these schools, especially those who are developing culturally relevant and liberating forms of teaching in their classrooms. We believe that collective struggle will require the formation of new generations of student activists, and we hope that the teachers and students everywhere develop a critical awareness of the colonial and capitalist forces that are shaping public education, with the goal of forming a unified, national effort to reclaim public education for all.
 For a distinction between corporate and community charters, see "Report on Charter Schools (Part 1): What Teachers Need to Know About Charter Schools" produced by the Association of Raza Educators, Los Angeles Chapter, Publicity / Community Relations Committee. You can access the document at www.ARELosAngeles. com.