Saturday, March 21, 2009

If I Was a Billionaire

Yesterday I calculated the growth of charter school enrollment for middle schools in Oakland. Currently, charter school enrollment is 21.74% of our district's total middle school enrollment, and 18% district-wide. At this current rate, charter middle school enrollment in OUSD will hit 30% in 2011-12. It will hit 55% in 2020-21, and 100% in 2036-37. Of course, the entire district is headed on that path.

Of course, what this means is that the education of
Oakland's children will be overseen by individuals who have NO connection to our city. The school boards we have elected for the last 100 years or so will become obsolete. Boards of directors of charter school organizations will take their place, the vast majority being outsiders who know nothing about our city, its history, and its complicated dynamics, nor do they care.

Beyond the unending back and forth about charters, this fight is about the loss of autonomy for
Oakland's citizens. I always thought self-determination was something our democracy was supposed to provide for us. The entrepreneurs are engineering something different, and our political leaders are letting it happen.

I don't know where any of you live, and if you are public school parents, or not. This storm is upon
Oakland, DC, NYC, LA, and many other cities. Has it landed in the community where you send your kids? What is the percentage of charter schools there?

If it hasn't yet arrived, then please tell me how you would respond if people who didn't even live in your town, and had never used your local public schools, were using their Money and Might to completely destabilize your school district? What is going on here reeks of their contempt for me, my family, and my neighbors.

Oaklanders never voted for this major change to their public school system after discussion and debate, if we had I would feel different. No, this situation was thrust upon us in a particularly devious way, and had to do with backroom deals and paybacks for campaign contributions.

There is no question that a handful of players are targeting other communities in the U.S. using the exact same technique, and feeding those communities with a lot of propaganda.

I worry about my fellow
Oakland residents. With the elimination of our public schools comes a loss of protected jobs, since many of the district's employees are Oakland residents. Of course, I can already hear the anti-union sentiment portion of the pro-charter mantra out there...

It's funny; no one bashed our firemen (unionized) when the Oakland Firestorm killed 25 people and destroyed nearly 4,000 homes. Bill Gates doesn't go around the country blaming our understaffed police force (unionized) for every single data point of our crime. But urban teachers, like those in
Oakland, are constantly getting broadly reamed - though ONLY by those same people who have never experienced, and know absolutely nothing, about our schools.

For those of us who live in an area where the majority of students who attend public schools are poor, a different variation of a two-tiered educational system has emerged. Poorer communities will soon have no say in how their public schools are run, but of course, wealthier communities will.

If I was a billionaire who wanted to bring about public education change, my approach would have been very different. It would have been a nurturing, rather than a destructive, one.

I would have provided information, encouragement and support to the people in struggling school communities. I would have spent some of my money on programs that would draw parents of low-achieving kids into the conversation, and give them the set of tools and skills which would have empowered them to help both their children, and their local schools. I would have provided lots of enrichment to deprived students and classrooms. To help the teachers teach better, I would have tackled the problem of low morale.

If I was one of the billionaires, my educational reform life's work would have been to find the ways that would strengthen things that were weak, instead of trying so very, very hard to break everything, and everyone, down.


Unknown said...

I just stole this!

You are awesome!

Anonymous said...

You'll never be a billionaire.

Why not?

Because you have too much humanity, wisdom, goodness, honesty and integrity to EVER become a Billionaire.

Billionaires lack those qualities in lieu of being spiritually and technically able to build (i.e.STEAL) their fortunes.

Thank you for this blog!