We’re slashing K-12 funding and teachers and then turning our schools over to private operators. This is hardly good ‘reform’
This crisis, which has persisted as disparate local debates, may soon coalesce into a national conflict. The schools hurt the most are those that have long been underfunded, segregated institutions struggling to educate poor black and Latino students. But today’s cuts are reaching into working- and middle-class towns and suburbs, and turning schools across the country into dreary, boring, arts and creativity bereft boot camps for standardized test preparation.
In Seattle, hundreds of students and teachers refused to take or administer high-stakes standardized tests. This after Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others were indicted as part of a investigation that concluded a culture that accepted “no exceptions and no excuses for failure to meet targets” was at the root of widespread test cheating.
In New York, mayoral candidates have made the criticism of Michael Bloomberg’s school reform agenda a centerpiece of their campaign. In Philadelphia, mass student walkouts have protested the “doomsday” budget and hunger strikers are pledging to refuse food until more than 1,200 aides critical to school safety are rehired.
Most importantly, striking Chicago teachers created a new model for defending public schools in 2012. Educators received widespread public support after building strong community coalitions, and making it clear they fought not only for parochial job interests but also for fair funding, rich curricula and for schools as community institutions.
The reform movement perceives economic crisis as an opportunity to exploit for political gain. But the movement may have overplayed its hand, as increasing numbers of students, parents and teachers identify education austerity with the bipartisan prophets of “school choice”.