May 25, 2017

The Democrats' role in the public school crisis

Alternet  - In an essay for the New Republic, academic and educational policy analyst Diane Ravitch traces how the Democrats went so horribly astray on education, creating the conditions for the disaster now befalling our public schools. In 1994, President Clinton passed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, which established national achievement standards and provided grants to states that used their own. Seven years later, Senator Ted Kennedy helped George W. Bush enact the No Child Left Behind Act. "For the first time," Ravitch writes, "the government was mandating not only 'accountability' (code for punishing teachers and schools who fall short), but also 'choice' (code for handing low-performing public schools over to charter operators)."

If the education reform movement took root in the Clinton and Bush administrations, it blossomed under Barack Obama, who placed renewed emphasis on testing and accountability. As Ravitch notes, his Race to the Top program held teachers to rigid test scores, doubled the number of students attending charter schools and closed countless public schools that failed to meet national standards. Perhaps most insidious, Democrats adopted "school choice"—a concept rooted in Southern racial panic following the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education—as part of their party platform.

For Ravitch, the reasons for Democrats to abandon charter schools are manifold. Not only is the industry rife with fraud, its executives profiting handsomely from shady real estate deals, but studies indicate charters do not produce higher test scores than public schools. What's more, a wealth of research suggests school choice is actively segregating our children. "Support for charters is paving the way for a dual school system," she writes, "one that is allowed to choose the students it wants, and another that is required to accept all who enroll."

No comments: