Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hostility is an End in Itself

Rhode Island Red Teacher:

Secondly, I think we need to be quite careful about how we frame the issue between communities, who we exclude and what it means for the justification of our opponents. It sounded like a certain Cranston city councilman (I don’t remember who and I’m not super-familiar with Cranston politics) talked at the last forum about how hard Cranston had tried to keep Providence kids out of their system. This is a narrow-minded approach that unfairly labels the Providence kids as “a problem” and sets up a barrier between two communities that have a lot more in common than they have in differences. And it provides grounds for charter school supporters to accuse our side of wanting to condemn a certain section of the student population to a sub-standard education. It makes the problem one of “I want this for my community, everyone else be damned” instead of attacking the charter movement for what it is: a movement to siphon public money into the private sector while parents become “consumers” and lose any control whatsoever over their children’s schools, and teachers are stripped of their union rights. It’s the same sort of pedantic local opportunism that I heard from Bristol folks when Gist came to our district to defend the funding formula, and it’s a losing strategy. It makes their side look reasonable and justified, when they are not.

Actually, it is not necessary that Cranston collectively and uniformly takes the high road in this debate. Cranston's general hostility to the Achievement First Mayoral Academies is an issue regardless of the specific merits of each reason.

Let's be clear here: basing a charter school for low-income black and latino students in a predominantly white, middle-class suburb that does not want them there is a terrible idea. It is such a bad idea that I've never even heard it suggested anywhere in the country before, and certainly nobody knows if it will work.

For that matter, basing a charter school in the city that will aim to pull 20% of the low-income students from of a white, middle-class suburb, along with 8-10% of the suburban district's budget, is a terrible idea too, since the rest of the suburb will only ever see their money pouring out to educate those kids. They'll fight that school until they cripple or kill it, and the mayoral academy law gives them unique tools to do so.

These are reasons I'm so opposed to this proposal. The mayoral academy law forces Achievement First into a whole set of decisions that they would never entertain for a second otherwise. If Rhode Island had managed to write a straightforward anti-union charter school revision, Cranston would be, at most, a minor afterthought in their plans.

Regardless, there is no reason to think mayoral academies advocates are justified in taking the moral high ground here. The Civil Rights Movement fought for integration. I am in favor of giving Providence students the right to attend the excellent schools already in Cranston. Martin Luther King did not fight for "separate but equal," or even "separate but better," which is what Achievement First Mayoral Academy is shooting for. If you want to wear the mantle of the Civil Rights Movement, you must fight for integration.

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