Kick the Cap

Behind the scenes (and out in the hallway) at the Statehouse charter school hearing…


statehouseAnd that’s a wrap, folks! After nine hours, and thousands of pages of testimony concerning 35 different pieces of legislation—35!—this week’s marathon hearing on the state and future of charter schools in the Bay State had finally reached its end. But still, the question lingered: had anyone actually learned anything? It might surprise you to learn that my answer is an unabashed *Yes.* In fact, I learned quite a lot.
Continue reading →

New Orleans: Miracle or Mirage?

Scholar Kristen Buras says that education reform in New Orleans has been a costly failure… 

Editor’s note: This summer is the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the City of New Orleans. But it also marks the start of an ambitious – many would say audacious – effort to break up New Orleans’ long-beleaguered public school system and replace it with a *market-based* system in which charter schools compete for customers, in this case students and parents, and for top test scores. Neighborhood schools are no more. In fact, some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the hurricane have few schools at all. Instead, students spend hours crisscrossing the city on school buses to attend charter schools that virtually all embrace the same approach: long days, strict discipline and a heavy focus on test prep. In the following interview, the kickoff to my series, New Orleans: Miracle or Mirage?, I talk to education scholar Kristen Buras about what education reform has meant for the city where she grew up.

pinEduShyster: I want to start with a measure by which education reform in New Orleans has been a measurable success: it has helped to make the city richer and whiter, something that, it turns out, seems to have been part of the plan from the beginning.

Kristen Buras: Even though the charter schools in New Orleans are still largely attended by working class African-American students, who runs those schools has shifted dramatically. Black veteran teachers and administrators had served in the system for decades. Now what do you see? White leadership has been recruited to the city to run charter schools. Inexperienced recruits have been brought in from outside of the city to give teaching a whack for a year or two before departing for more lucrative careers or advanced positions within the charter sector. There’s definitely been a whitening of the teaching force and the administrative structure.But it’s larger than that. There is a racial re-envisioning of New Orleans as a whole. Take, for example, a project like 504ward, started by Leslie Jacobs, a former local and state-level school board member, which is all about making young professionals who have come to New Orleans as part of the so-called talent pipeline feel comfortable so they remain in city. So it really is at every level a racial reconstruction of the city.  Continue reading →

There Goes the Neighborhood School

Who gets to live in a neighborhood when neighborhood schools disappear?

Progressive picWhen the city of Chicago shuttered some fifty neighborhood schools last year, officials invoked antiseptic-sounding words like “underperformance” and “underutilization.” But visit neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the closings, as I did recently, and you’ll hear that the battle over the city’s schools is about something much larger: the future of the city itself and who gets to live here. Parents, teachers and community leaders told me that the replacement of neighborhood schools serving the city’s poorest children with privately run charters that don’t, can’t be separated from the relentless gentrification that’s rapidly transforming Chicago into a wealthier, whiter city. Think urban renewal but without the bulldozers.

Continue reading →

Other People’s Cities

In Camden, education reform and gentrification go hand in hand

CAMDEN1bBy Keith Benson
In case you missed it, Camden, NJ will soon be home to a brand new practice facility (*we’re talkin’ about practice!*) for the Philadelphia 76ers that will cost taxpayers $82 million. What does Camden get in exchange for this princely sum? Fifty seasonal—read low-paying—sales and marketing jobs. This news comes on the heels of the layoffs of hundreds of teachers and staff from the Camden Public Schools. If you’re wondering about the priorities of a city that can’t afford to pay its teachers but can somehow spring for the *biggest and best* practice facility in the US, you’re not the only one; I’m feeling confused and angry about the direction of my city these days.
Continue reading →