Monday, December 20, 2010

Parent Trigger or Corporate Bomb?

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
The well-publicized attempt to convert McKinley Elementary in Compton to a charter school, using California’s “Parent Trigger” law, has been hailed as a victory for parental choice and the movement to improve failing schools. Both claims are lies.

Underperforming, But Improving Dramatically Without Conversion
McKinley may have been a low-performing, low income school, but it had been making huge academic leaps, improving its API (Academic Performance Indicator) by 77 points over the last two years. With such dramatic improvement, McKinley should have been seen as a model of what is working, not as a poster boy for school privatization. Under NCLB’s absurd accounting methods, though, McKinley continued to be seen as a failing school, thus providing ammunition to the corporate vultures who saw a meal waiting to be snatched.

In Come the Corporate Raiders
Likewise, the vote to convert McKinley was led by a group called Parent Revolution, which is funded by Eli Broad, a billionaire financier and opponent of public education, and chaired by Steve Barr, former CEO of Green Dot Public Schools, Inc. Green Dot was also backed by Broad, and by Bill Gates. Parent Revolution targeted several low income communities in the Los Angeles area and went door to door to recruit parents. In other words, Compton parent trigger is looking less like a grass roots parental choice movement, and more like a gang of corporate raiders, hell bent on scamming tax dollars for their private gain.

Parent Revolution claimed that 62% of McKinley parents supported the conversion to a charter school. However, the organization has been denounced for bullying parents into voting their way. Parents were harassed at work and in their communities to vote for the Parent Revolution initiative. Many were repeatedly called after refusing to sign the petition. Some were even told they would be deported if the initiative failed. 50-60 parents have since asked that their names be removed from the petition. Many showed up at a petition-signing event attended by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, with picket signs saying, “Our Kids Aren’t For Sale.”

Governor Schwarzenegger has intervened on behalf of the corporate raiders, denouncing the “intimidation” tactics of those opposed the school conversion, but saying nothing about the dishonesty and intimidation of its supporters. Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel have both lauded the conversion, with Emanuel threatening to implement a parent trigger law in Chicago, once he becomes mayor.

Anything Is Better Than the Status Quo, Not
Parent Trigger advocates and other Ed Deformers have tried to convince us that anything is better than the status quo, which is just plain idiotic. Nevertheless, the more they bash a particular school, group of teachers, or system, the worse they appear to be, thus building a blood lust for change. The problem is, even if their criticisms were valid, change, in and of itself, is not always an improvement.

Take Celerity, which will take over McKinley. They have a reputation of excluding, or outsourcing kids they believe will bring down test scores, especially special education students. Vielka McFarland, founder of Celerity, said that she does plan to assess all students, but “only to better understand their needs.” Celerity also has a history of bullying teachers and suppressing their right to free speech and their academic freedom, including the firing of two of their teachers for teaching about Emmett Till.

Celerity was imposed on Compton without any competitive bidding. They have a very limited track record, and little indication that they will be able to improve McKinley, especially after they skim off a large portion of their tax financed revenues to pay their corporate salaries. They have not made any commitment to keep any of McKinley’s teachers and have a history of antagonism toward unions.

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