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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ravitch Smears Sanders While Ignoring Clinton's History as Charter Cheerleader

I came across an interview with Diane Ravitch this week that clearly shows her presidential preference, even though she has vowed neutrality in the presidential contest.  During the interview, there was this exchange that puts on display the biases of both questioner and respondent:
DB: Let’s just talk a little more about the other side of the destruction of the public school system, and that’s the so-called privatization, the charter schools. Now it was interesting, and you point this out in your recent writing, that Bernie Sanders, when he was asked about charter schools, said, “Well, I only like the public charter schools.” The point is that it shows his incredible ignorance, and not that I don’t have a great deal of respect for him, but in that context there really aren’t any public charter schools, right? By the very nature of it.

Ravitch: That’s correct, I mean, all charter schools ... the definition of a charter school is that it’s funded by the public. So there is no such thing as a private charter school. So when he says he’s in favor of public charter schools, he’s not really ... he hasn’t been briefed adequately, which I find surprising considering he sits on the Senate committee in charge of education.
While it may be politically-advantageous to pretend otherwise, Bernie voiced opposition to "privately-controlled charter schools," and there are thousands of those across the U. S.   For Ravitch to pretend that Bernie or his staff are entirely out of touch with reality only shows how much she wants to make the case for the candidate embraced by her pals who run AFT and NEA.

I will share what I know of Bernie's position below, but since he has no history to examine with regard to charter school support other than voting against NCLB, let's look at Hillary's positions first, because she does have a 20+ year history.  That history is something Ravitch and her questioner studiously avoid.

One thing is for sure, however: Hillary has been consistently and vociferously in favor of charters.

Hillary's fascination with school privatization began in the early 1990s, when she as First Lady took her entourage to Baltimore to visit one of the for-profit company schools owned by Education Alternatives, Inc.  Here are some details worth recalling about Clinton's involvement during that time:
Phillip Babich: The Federal Government first began experimenting with corporate involvement in schools under the Nixon Administration in the early 1970s. The program, known as Performance Contracting, was abandoned when it proved vulnerable to corruption and fraud. Presidents Reagan and Bush revived the concept, and according to Alex Molinar, author of "Giving Kids the Business," corporations have gained ground in the classroom under the Clinton Administration. Molinar spoke with correspondent Julie Light.
Alex Molinar: Unfortunately the Clinton Administration, in that regard, is indistinguishable from the Reagan and Bush Administrations. It continues the emphasis on contracting out. And in the case of EAI, now Teserec, one of the firms running or attempting to run schools for a profit, Hillary Rodham Clinton made a pilgrimage to Baltimore where that corporation at one time was running nine schools, and sat for a photo opportunity. So there's a lot of bi-partisan, high level political support behind the idea of running schools for profit. So you can see how the deregulatory trajectory of American public policy is encouraging the development of these for-profit, commercializing activities in the schools. That's quite a bit different from whether or not they're actually improving the quality of education that children are receiving. In point of fact, there is very little evidence to suggest that these corporations are going to do anything of much value to America's school children.
In 1998, Hillary gathered a group of charter school supporters to the White House to deliver a speech that made explicit her commitment.  By then, she had clearly come to support charters as models for public schools:
"We’re here because we believe that charter schools can play a significant part in revitalizing and strengthening public schools today – by offering greater flexibility from bureaucratic rules..."
Fast forward to December 2015, a month after Hillary upset Eli Broad and hedge fund managers with her comments about high attrition in charter schools.  As the Wall Street Journal reported in December, there was nothing for the charter industry to worry about, however:
The [Clinton] campaign is working to reassure people that she hasn’t abandoned many years of support for charter schools and other changes to education.

Policy aide Ann O’Leary posted an essay on medium.com assuring that “yes, Hillary Clinton supports charter schools,” as long as they are high quality. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon added that Mrs. Clinton supports federal funding to expand “high-quality charter schools.”
Her campaign website, too, leaves no doubt about Hillary's doubled-down support for charters as turnaround solutions.  In praise of ESSA, she says,
The bill will allow communities to strike a balance on testing as a measure of student success, require districts and states to take action to turn around struggling schools, and expand resources for teacher development, early childhood education, and high-quality public charter schools.   
Now here is what we know about Bernie's position on charter schools, which has remained consistently oppositional, even though on one occasion, he was less explicit than he might have been.

In January of this year, he said this:
"I'm not in favor of privately-run charter schools," Sanders said to applause at the Jan. 3 event. "If we are going to have a strong democracy and be competitive globally, we need the best educated people in the world. And I believe in public education. I went to public schools my whole life. I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education." 
Then, in March, Sanders said in a radio interview that he "supports public charter schools."

The next day, he clarified at a town hall that he does "not believe in privately-controlled charter schools."  Since there are just a few charters that are not privately-controlled, we can only assume that Sanders does not support the vast majority of charter schools.

If Bernie's position remains less than crystal clear to you, I understand.  If you believe, however, in more of the same corporate education reform scams, more school closures, more corporate welfare charter schools, the choice is very clear.



  1. Anonymous8:49 PM

    Ravitch defended how Hillary "misspoke" when she recommended closing below average public schools. Declaring neutrality is a political ploy. There appears to be confusion as to the definition of a mathematical average. If we were to close all below average public schools each year consecutively, how many public schools would be left in a decade? Forgive me, I am a pre Common Core math student.

    Abigail Shure

  2. Immediately after Hillary Clinton lifted the curtain on her true views about charter schools, Diane Ravitch jumped to do damage control like she was her campaign manager. http://dianeravitch.net/2015/12/23/no-hillary-does-not-want-to-close-half-the-schools-in-the-nation/

    Realizing she had also lifted the curtain on her on support for Clinton, Ravitch has been trying to backtrack ever since. She defends everything Randi Weingarten does so why wouldn't she join her in supporting Clinton?