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New York and Chicago: Same Script

Publication Date: 2007-11-13

Whether it's New York or Chicago, the charterizing brigade is in full force, financed by Broad, Gates, and Walton and aided by the AFT. Jim Horn and George Schmidt document what's happening. Your city may be next.

by Jim Horn Schools Matter writes:

Whoops! The cat is officially out of the bag, with the account of how Bloomberg & Klein plan to privatize the New York City Schools.

It will not be simple sell, however, to convince the public to turn over the Schools to the corporate curriculum writers bought by Eli Broad, Bill Gates, and the Walton family, in schools where tenure is abolished and teachers do test score piece work, where the civic responsibility of providing for our children's educations has been relinquished to those who have have reduced the value of life to the formulae provided by consumer capitalists and their mantra of global competitiveness, where a child becomes a "scholar" in the bogus data factory that has replaced the idea of school, where she works overtime toward a future that poverty and racism will most likely disallow.

To get this charterising done, Bloomberg and Klein must hold up an example to show a skeptical public how they can tame poor black children while choking high test scores out of them. This is the miracle of KIPP, where children and parents must sign a contract that assures compliance and no complaining if a child is to be allowed to be brainwashed into believing that his future simply depends upon how hard he works, how nice he is. Otherwise, complainers or behavior problems or slackers are booted out, and in comes the next eager face from the waiting list of children whose parents are desperate for something other than the standard fare that Bloomberg and Klein provide to the poor of NYC. And if the child remains compliant, by the time he comes to see through the illusion, he will have learned that he, himself, must have not worked quite hard enough or that he was somehow less than nice to deserve the fate that he, indeed, could not have created.

A clip from The Economist:

THE 220 children are called scholars, not students, at the Excellence charter school in Brooklyn's impoverished Bedford-Stuyvesant district. To promote the highest expectations, the scholarsâ€"who are all boys, mostly black and more than half of whom get free or subsidised school lunchesâ€"are encouraged to think beyond school, to university. Outside each classroom is a plaque, with the name of a teacher's alma mater, and then the year (2024 in the case of the kindergarten), in which the boys will graduate from college.

Like the other charter schools that are fast multiplying across America, Excellence is an independently run public school that has been allowed greater flexibility in its operations in return for greater accountability, though it cannot select its pupils, instead choosing them by lottery. If it fails, the principal (head teacher) will be held accountable, and the school could be closed. Three years old, Excellence is living up to its name: 92% of its third-grade scholars (eight-year-olds, the oldest boys it has, so far) scored “advanced” or “proficient” in New York state English language exams this year, compared to an average (for fourth-graders) across the state of 68% and only 62% in the Big Apple. They did even better in mathematics.

This is the sort of performance that the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, now wants to extend from New York's 60 charter schools to all of the city's schools. On November 5th, the mayor and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, announced what is in effect the final piece in their grand plan to charterise the entire city school system. As charter schools remain politically contentious, though, they have been careful not to use that phrase in public.

When Mr Klein took the job in 2002, having led the Clinton administration's efforts to break up Microsoft, The Economist joked that he should try to do the same thing to New York's schools monopoly. He more or less has. Under the new scheme, every school run by the city will receive a public report card, with a grade that reflects both academic performance and surveys of students, parents and teachers. The first grades were given out this week. . . .

When I posted this at ARN on the Bloomberg corporate giveaway plans in NYC Public Schools, George Schmidt wrote back with this on the situation in Chicago.

by George Schmidt, Editor, Substance

The same kind of plan has been in place in Chicago for the past five years. It's called "Renaissance 2010 -- 100 new schools for Chicago" and is based on the same drives (privatize and charterize as much as possible).

Renaissance 2010, as we reported in Substance, was inaugurated in a speech by Mayor Richard Daley here in July 2004. It was scripted, though, in a report by a group called the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, which has been Chicago's local version of the Business Roundtable for the past 100 years or so.

The Civic Committee published a report entitled "Left Behind" in 2003 which claimed (based on twisting data sets) that all Chicago public schools had failed and should be replaced by charters.

That meant that by the time, one year later, Renaissance 2010 was announced by Mayor Daley people could say "Whew, they're only going to charterize 100 schools (out of 600) so most of us are safe."

The central committee of the ruling class at this point is sharing information about how to bring this stuff about. One of their main claims is that all they are doing is offering "choice" to poor and "underserved" communities. Of course, the ruling class has made those communities poor and underserved, but unless our side puts that loudly into the debate, it's ignored.

They have also raised a lot of private money (Gates; Walton; Ford; others) for direct assistance to charters. Additionally, they are continually getting additional funds from the federal government. Margaret Spellings came to Chicago (as we reported in February) for what I called a charter school infomercial three days after President Bush pushed charters in the State of the Union address.

With the amount of money they have, they are buying a lot of activists to shill for them, including many erstwhile "progressives." While they are starving the remaining public schools of capital and operational funds, there are millions of extra dollars provided you push charterization.

Finally, for now, there is a very strange religious side to this stuff. One Chicago charter schools (Chicago International Charter Schools) now has ten "campuses" and is the largest charter school in Illinois. Every one of its "campuses" is in what was once a Catholic Schools, and they have generally refused to remove the religious iconography from the building. Two weeks ago (as I'll be reporting in the November Substance this week) I was surrounded by security guys when I went out to the newest CICS charter school which was just opened in the old Immaculate Heart of Mary school building on Chicago's northwest side. I wanted to get my usual shots (a statue of the Blessed Virgin outside a "public schools", the crucifixes all over the place) and wasn't taking my photographs five minutes when first one, then two, then three private security people (for a school of 200!) rushed around trying to block my camera. They really wanted to protect that eight foot high statue of the virgin from my camera lens.

A reason I mention this is that it seems that the powerful Archdiosis of Chicago is very much in the middle of the charter school push, and that in some cases they are simply flipping Catholic schools, with the same kids and staffs, and calling them public charter schools.

On all levels, if you can challenge these programs every step of the way, you will be much better off.

Oh, and watch how they pick the people to run things. Here in Chicago, the "Office of New Schools Development" is staffed by people who've never worked in public schools, all paid more than teachers. Their current chief officer (at $135,000 per year) is a guy named Josh Edelman, a former charter school head from California. You might recognize the name of this young visionary. His mother is Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund.

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