I know I’m a day late for Memorial Day but I have been reading several excellent pieces over the weekend and the question is still on my mind – what did these soldiers die for?
Was it to guarantee that the Walton family’s income grows larger every year? Was it to assure a bright future for test publishing companies? Or to make the world safer for Rupert Murdoch to steal and use our children’s school information so that they can market more stuff no one needs?
Did they die for our democracy only to have it replaced by consumerism?
First, I read the excellent, extremely well-researched and quite depressing Curtis Black article in NewsTips, “AUSL turnarounds called ineffective, expensive.” Here’s just some of what Curtis laid out.
- AUSL schools are too expensive. AUSL schools receive over $1 million per year above their per-pupil allotment. This year CPS will pay $11 million for improvements to schools about to be taken over by AUSL. CPS gives AUSL schools an extra assistant principal and a full-time social worker, rare in CPS schools. Curtis wrote, “A couple years ago, annual spending on turnarounds was $20 million. It’s growing steadily.” Thought we had a budget crisis?
- AUSL schools have poor academic track records. State test results for all but one AUSL school are well below district averages. North Lawndale’s brilliant activist Valerie Leonard pointed out to Curtis that AUSL will control all of the feeder schools to Collins HS after this year’s closings, yet AUSL schools underperform neighborhood schools by 51.7% average ISAT reading for AUSL to 65.6% for neighborhood schools. That’s a turndown, not a turnaround.
- AUSL schools push out students they don’t want. Curtis shared stories from several people about students being told by AUSL to “find another school.” The percentage of students with disabilities has also dropped at AUSL schools, including a one-third drop at Morton, AUSL’s top scoring school. That’s called turning away, right?
- AUSL teachers have a “huge” turnover rate, and the percentage of African-American teachers drops significantly in many AUSL schools. Keep in mind that AUSL touts itself as a top-flight teacher training institution.
Okay, I try to share the truth about these schools day in and day out. This is just one more example of the facts that prove that the corporate reform agenda is not about educating children but about power mongers grabbing more power. Don’t forget that Mayor Emanuel’s appointed school board president, David Vitale, was the Chairman of AUSL, a fact conveniently left out of his Board biography.
So, does it help? Does it matter? CPS closed 50 schools despite everything. Why bother?
Because they died for democracy, not for this $#!+. And our public education system was built to foster democracy, not “choice and competition.”
On the positive side, Curtis’s article highlights Strategic Learning Initiatives, a local program that does work and actually builds on democratic participation. I have written about SLI a few times.
That reference resonated with the other piece I read this weekend – the wonderful report by my heroes at the National Education Policy Center, “Democracy Left Behind: How Recent Reforms Undermine Local School Governance and Democratic Action.”
I read the executive summary when it came out last fall, and that’s well worth looking at if you can’t read the full report.
But the full report shows the importance of embedding democracy into education, and how democracy is destroyed when people become “passive bystanders” in education through privatization, top-down control, and narrowing of the curriculum using punishments linked to test-based accountability.
The report warns that we must not fail to provide all of our children with an education in democratic participation that will equip them to be active and involved citizens. This is the gift we must pass down and not throw away.
That’s why the fight against the corporate reform agenda is so important – it’s about saving democracy.