Tuesday, August 04, 2009

John Elfrank-Dana on Charter Schools and More

John commented on a raging debate on PS 123 and Harlem Success at Gotham Schools:

The heart of the issue seems to me is that America has always paid lip service to equal opportunity. That is the justification for our supposedly competitive society, free market, what have ya. The obvious divergence of the quality facilities and services between these two schools located in the same building just put into focus what is present system-wide. Charter schools must succeed and public schools must fail if the privatization of public schools on a grand scale will come into being. Note, privatization is not for my own children. They go to school in Clarkstown up in Rockland County, where Randi Weingarten was raised and went to school. Come up to the burbs and talk privatization and people will look at you like you are nuts. This is an evolving caste system.

The privatization failure will play out in the cities or poor rural areas where the parents, for the most part, are AWOL. I don’t blame the parents, as victims of economic injustice have lives such that it’s much harder to take care of business; like go to PTA meetings, etc. Thus, BloomKein and others have exploited this situation to move a privatization scheme forward.

Where’s the teachers union in all of this? On the fence would be a gratuitous way to put it. However, our union believes in nothing. It, therefore, stands for nothing. Had we been serious about class size and school closings we would have put that into contract negotiations. We haven’t. We therefore lack the support from and merit the suspicion of parents. The union supported mayoral control and the closing of large schools (by doing nothing). Sure, we have passed one meaningless resolution at the UFT Delegate Assembly after another, but it’s all lip service.

I am the UFT chapter leader at Murry Bergtraum High School. It’s the largest of the remaining large high schools in Manhattan. There once was a time I would have been proud to send my own children to that school. However, in the past 10 years all of that has changed. We at Bergtraum have witnessed Bloomberg and Klein destroy our school. Dumping large numbers of high need students on us (to make their boutique schools look good and provide a landing pad for students from other closed large high schools) without offering any additional supports. Imagine a hospital designed to handle 10% of its patients with intensive care needs. What would happen to that hospital should that percentage increase to 30 to 40% without any meaningful change in support or structure? This is what we are faced with, as well as many other schools in the system.

Only through united action of parents and teachers will there be any progress. Parents need to be educated and the teachers union needs to wake up and realize its future rests only in the democratization of schools, and not cutting deal with the mayor. We have new leadership at the UFT. Let’s see just how “new” it will be.