The idea that we should be working with them is absurd: their goals – and the goals of their advocates – could not be further from our own.
I believe in public schools that are owned and controlled by the people, for the people. They should be responsive to the public will, and their policies, practices, and procedures should be decided democratically by the public and their representatives. Students should have ownership of the spaces in which they learn, parents should have a meaningful voice in their children’s schools, and teachers should have a say in how their workplaces operate.
The movement to privatize public education opposes all of the above because, in the end, it undermines democratic input into public life.
While school privatization “reformers” are backed by big money donors and corporations, opponents include San Antonio’s Our Schools Coalition of community members, teachers, and parents, the Movement for Black Lives, the Network for Public Education, and the NAACP – the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.
It’s big corporate money versus civil rights organizations, community groups, and teachers. The choice could hardly be starker. That’s why charter advocates pretend this argument is about teachers’ contracts and unions that are scared of change: if they were to tell the public the truth, they’d lose the argument before it started.
Who supports Martinez’s plans for charter collaboration in SAISD? San Antonio Charter Moms, an advocacy group for charter expansion, and what is loosely referred to as “the business community.”
Parents, teachers, students, community groups do not.
Parents, community members, and teachers repeatedly called on Martinez and the board of trustees to consult and partner with them in deciding the future of their neighborhood school. Again and again their calls were ignored by the district leaders whose job is to serve them and act in their interests. Again and again district leaders refused to consider alternatives to plans which had been devised behind the scenes many months earlier. While the Stewart community was excluded at every turn, Democracy Prep was being courted by district leaders.
Stewart teachers, parents, and students were effectively dismissed and denied the chance to escape the State’s “improvement required” rating by a district leadership unwilling even to make its contract with Democracy Prep conditional on the school’s failure to meet standards.
But last week, preliminary STAAR scores indicated that Stewart Elementary could obtain a passing, or “met standard” rating from the state, SAISD Deputy Superintendent Pauline Dow said. While final STAAR results and the State’s accountability ratings won’t be released until August, those of us trained on the state calculators for school performance are certain Stewart Elementary will finally emerge from its “improvement required” status.
Regardless, Democracy Prep is slated to take over Stewart on July 1.
A campus that could be safe from state sanction is being dismembered and sold off, all but two of its teachers leaving rather than work for the charter company with high teacher turnover rates (34 percent across all campuses last year), low expectations for teacher qualifications (as few as 44 percent of teachers being certified), and regressive and punitive disciplinary practices (28 percent suspension rate). Many students have opted to leave, even under district pressure to remain, and the campus’s future remains uncertain.
It could have been a different story, and now we have proof that our most underperforming campuses can turn themselves around without the “expertise” of outside charter companies.
San Antonio’s public schools are far from perfect, and we should move boldly to transform them into the schools our children deserve. But handing them over to private, profit-seeking entities isn’t the way to proceed. Powerful forces are doing everything they can to cash in on the privatization of public education in this country. They are desperately working to shape a narrative which – if they succeed – will have you fighting the people you should be supporting, and supporting the people you should be fighting.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT #iBELIEVE