The NYT published a front-page article today, and it had some good quotes.
First, in the opening paragraph, the article states school closures “have destabilized neighborhoods,” an essential point. Schools are central to a community, and both the fragmentation caused by charter schools and the regimentation caused by standardized testing erodes the community relationship. The Times (and author Motoko Rich) also got to a key consequence: school decline “can also affect the depth of a district’s curriculum, jeopardizing programs in foreign languages, music or art.”
The erosion of art and creativity is of national concern, and it is hard not to place much of that at the feet of standardized testing and, as the NYT points out, charter schools, thanks to Michelle Rhee.
Michelle Rhee’s husband, Kevin Johnson, was quoted in the article, saying “We have a record-low confidence in our public school.” Hmm. Wonder why that might be, Mr. Rhee? Might it be because of disgusting ads aired by an organization seeking to privatize and profiteer education? (See Gary Rubinstein’s blog deconstructing the ad.) The article went on to talk about a mother who removed her child from public ed in Columbus, Ohio, placing her in a charter school, which have not been proven to be more effective than public ed nationally.
I am left with two thoughts:
I hadn’t realized that Michelle Rhee’s husband is mayor of Sacramento nor that he is head of education policy for the United States Conference of Mayors. That is terrifying. Public education is under attack from every direction and the message is controlled by people like Rhee/Johnson. Ed reformers are in politics, on corporate boards, and, more and more, targeting local school board races. Public ed is simply under attack.
The nation is on a dangerous course, and the NYT points it out: “The students left behind…are increasing children with disabilities, in poverty, or learning English as a second language,” including that Cleveland’s special ed enrollment rose from 17 to 23 percent in a decade. Let’s do some cause and effect here… the students left behind will be the most struggling… then Rhee and allies will hold up the charters and the public schools, both drawing vastly different populations, and compare them, maybe with a SuperBowl ad this time.