This article was originally posted as a FB reply, then as a personal note, then as a blog on With a Brooklyn Accent,
AND NOW FINALLY- the place it all started: The War Report FB group post:
Jamaal Bowman was responding to this question posted in the War Report on Public Education Group after the internet radio show on the School to Prison Pipeline.
What do you think?
Charter schools are the best thing that has happened to public schools because they have forced public schools to “wake up” and for public school teachers to begin teaching better, due to the competition brought by Charters, than they have in previous years.
Please discuss – this was a topic raised in a group message after the School to Prison Pipeline show:
Podcast link for the Show from Sunday:
By Jamaal Bowman
Good evening. Please allow me to indulge for a moment. First, good schools are good schools. I don’t care what we call them. The most important thing in a child’s life after a parent is a good teacher, coach, or mentor. When I say good schools, I don’t mean schools that simply have good test scores. I’m speaking of schools that get good scores, as well as develop the character and passions of their students toward self actualization.
Allow me to debunk a few charter school myths. I don’t know if this applies to all charter schools but definitely the ones I have some experience with. First let me say that studies show if a parent is savvy and passionate about education, regardless of race, class, or educational background, their child is more likely to graduate high school and college. Charters (at least the ones I have experience with), make sure that parents prove how serious they are before even giving their child a chance of getting in. For example, one charter that I know, mandates (not using this word lightly), that parents attend 5-6 meetings before even entertaining the possibility of the child making it to the lottery. These are obviously parents that value education in the home. If parents miss one meeting, no lottery. On the other hand, district schools have to take everyone. The savvy parent AND the struggling parent without meeting mandates. A parent can go through an entire school year without attending a meeting and the child is guaranteed a spot in a district school.
Further, in case you didn’t know, parents also sign contracts in many charters to ensure homework is done, meetings are attended, and certain behavioral execrations are met. If the parent or child breaks the contract, the child can be kicked out of school. I know. I’ve seen it done while “interning” at a charter school.
Lastly, charters can fire teachers and have extremely high turnover rates. From my conversations and observations of charter schools, I’ve heard many of the policies and procedures be called “inhumane.” This could be why so many teachers can’t last anymore than two or three years in many charters. Ironically, these charters serve as a perfect pipeline for TFA –mocking two year commitment.
Based on what I know, as they are currently constituted, charters, TFA, and yearly standardized testing are wrong for our high need communities. We should stop funding them all unless they agree to make major adjustments to how they do business. Why? Because that money can be spent on giving all students a quality holistic education. Charters, TFA, and yearly testing infuse anxiety, disunity, and even worst, standardization into the psyche of society. They are trying to recreate a 21st century idea of “empire.” Keep the masses, and “lower class” under control while the elite continue to rule. A standardized mindset will always be controlled. Whereas in schools like Riverdale Country School, there are not state standardized assessment, no TFA and no need for a charter, and they are taught to lead and change the world.
Consider KIPP’S first graduating class. Ranked fifth in NYC in mathematics in the 8th grade, but only 21% graduated college. Why? Because KIPP test prepped the kids to death and the kids never built their character or learned to manage their own freedom. KIPP and many charters standardize and try to control everything from how kids walk through the halls to how they ask to go to the bathroom. But teaching and learning is organic; it is human. When are we gonna ask ourselves why must poor communities of color be treated like this, whereas middle class and upper class parents would NEVER go for this treatment!
WE HAVE TO hold politicians and private citizens who invest in education accountable to the true needs of our at-risk communities. We must give our communities a true voice. If charters, TFA, and the state really cared about our children being their very best, show us, by investing in daycare, Montessori, music, sports, counselors and everything in between. Charters should take all children and TFA should change everything! If not, the powers that be will continue to fatten up the district school kids to be slaughtered and fed to their private school bosses as adults.
For the rest we have jail cells waiting for them. #wemustunite