"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Memphis School Consolidation Means More Segregation, Privatization, and Charter Chain Gangs

When Wake County and Raleigh planned and executed a merger in 2000, they consciously adopted a socioeconomic integration plan with the goal of no more than 40 percent free and reduced priced lunch students per school.  Without forced busing but, rather, with the creation of large numbers of magnet schools and with a public outreach program that welcomed the community into the planning process and with a professional development plan for school staff that taught about the strengths of diverse learning environments, Wake County created a system that essentially had no bad schools but, rather, a system where social capital was created and shared, where all boats were lifted as a result, where learning gains were large and widespread. 

Contrast that to the secret and divisive and demonizing process going on in Memphis, where rumors of budget deficits are designed to scare board members into making rash decisions about closing schools and replacing them with charter schools. 

Has anyone on the planning board for consolidation considered an alternative to their plan to turn the intensely segregated school system of Memphis into a total apartheid system with zero tolerance charter schools for the poor run by corporations?  Has anyone really explored why the new K-12 consolidated system must pay for privatized pre-K at exorbitant rates (see this story for what can happen when corporations take over pre-schooling), while public schools must be closed and custodial work is being outsourced to pay for it?  Does anyone in Memphis care that 21 schools--primarily middle schools--are about to be closed and turned over to charter companies, thus disrupting the entire feeder system for large parts of the city's public schools?  Does anyone have any facts on how much money these closures will save, or does anyone care about the human costs and the the costs to the ideal of desegregated schools?

Most importantly, is there a public official in Memphis who is not afraid to propose something different from the plan devised by the Gates lawyers and economists who are playing school policy experts at the expense of Memphis citizens?

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