Are you one of the ‘loser’ teachers?

So Trump Jr. has spoken and shown again that Trump logic and intelligence is as shallow as a dried up mud puddle and just as unclear. Trump Jr. is suggesting that teachers are teaching ‘socialism from birth.” The problem with this stupidity is that, just like his father, spoken words do have consequences. The latest iteration of this can be found in the arrest of Lt. Christopher Hasson, who had a hit list of journalists and politicians and 15 firearms and over a thousand rounds of ammunition. His intent was to start a ‘race war’ in order to “establish a white homeland.” When our unpresident was asked if his use of language that has encouraged violence, defended white nationalists in Charlottesville, and called the press “the enemy of the people” had anything to do with encouraging Hasson, his response was “I think my language is very nice.”
Trump Jr. uttered his attack at a rally in Texas on February 11th, and sure enough, just like his father’s words against the press and the media encouraged Lt. Hasson to create his assassination list, Trump Jr’s words have led to attacks against public schools, unions and teachers. On February 18th an article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Teachers’ strikes a blow against good schools.”
This article, written by two charter school apologists, proceeded to attack public education and unions. They state that in Los Angeles – strangely they do not use Philly school teacher statistics – a union teacher can receive a retirement of $1,945 a month and state that is ‘something no other profession can boast.’ Allow me to disabuse them of that notion. They only had to look to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Legislators can retire at age 55, with lifetime health care and automatic cost of living raises. Although it is hard to obtain an average retirement figure (why do you think that is the case?) legislators can receive between 12,000 to over 20.000 dollars per month. Legislators can actually earn more in retirement that they did while they were working – and that is all accomplished without a union! How is that for outrageous? You will NEVER, EVER see charter school apologists attack state legislators and that is because it is those state legislators who have passed laws that allow charter schools to feed off of public school funding and create a network of laws that make it difficult to ever hold charter schools accountable.
The article goes on to imply that unions are in charge of public schools – stating that parents do not want the schools that the union has to offer. This is a ridiculous claim and totally ignores the role of the state legislature – remember that I said that these apologists would never attack the legislators? This is a good example of that statement. When bad schools are mentioned, it is implied that they are public schools. A bad charter school is never stated in this slanted article.
There are some things about charter schools that should have greater dissemination in the public arena, and here are a few of them that are based on my experience in both public and charter schools:
• Charter schools were originally started as part of a school reform movement. The idea was that charters, given relaxed regulations, would serve as ‘laboratory’ schools in which new ideas were tried and then brought back to public schools in the effort to reform them. This simply never happened. There never was a coherent way planned for this to occur and it only took charter schools a short time to realize that it was never going to happen. Charter schools quickly became direct competitors with public schools and today charter schools have become mini schools districts of their own.
• Charter schools are mostly anti-union although there are a few rare exceptions. This allows charter schools to set salaries as they want them. They will offer a competitive starting rate (that is sometimes even higher than a public school) but they do not value experienced teachers and since teachers work only year to year on a contract, charter schools can remove teachers as they wish when their salary would be expected to rise. I do know that charter schools are satisfied with high turnover, sometime ranging in the 25 to 35 percent range every year. There is no such thing as tenure to protect teachers from the vagaries of this practice.
• Curriculum is often based on an industrial model in charter schools. Just as you would standardize an assembly line in the auto industry, curriculum often follows a standardization that instructs teachers to teach in a step by step method. If you do not follow the steps, your practice is deemed to be bad practice. This helps to explain why charter schools prefer inexperienced teachers or teachers who are recruited through groups like Teach for America. These teachers do not have a teaching practice established and are more willing to accept what they are told when they are told to follow a step by step model. Experienced teachers are better able to resist this formulation and realize that they are a key part of teaching and learning. The concept that a classroom is a unique learning environment that functions as a dynamic exchange between teachers and learners is a foreign concept to charter schools.
• Charter schools receive some funds from public schools. They are given a per pupil allotment that for the sake of this entry I will place at $8,000 per student. If the student is a special ed student the allotment rises to $12,000 per student. The exact numbers are just ball park figures. They can vary year to year and district to district. The key point is that a charter school receives more for a special ed student – which lead to the next bullet point.
• It has been my experience in charter schools that once students are accepted to the charter, there is a sudden rise in students who are identified as special education students. This automatically increases the dollar amount that the charter school receives from the local school district, but a strange thing happens in this identification process. Most students are diagnosed as learning disabled students. Very few students are identified as emotionally disturbed, autistic or physically disabled. Those students are left to the public schools to educate which becomes all the more difficult because of the draining of financial resources caused by the establishment of charter schools.
I do acknowledge that some charter school administrators and teachers are serving their students well. I know some of them personally and applaud their work, but that does not mitigate the ways that the present set up is eroding public education and de-professionalizing the teaching practice. Charter schools need to be brought back to their original mission of serving public education and helping to reform public education instead of competing with it. Competition might be acceptable between Ford and Chevrolet, but it is not a model to apply to children’s lives.

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