Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education
The attack on public school teachers has got to end.
Republican governors across the country are taking aim at teachers, their unions and public schools in general.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has been demonizing teachers, lambasting unions, challenging tenure rights and recommending a crude teacher evaluation process.
He is also a big proponent of a tuition voucher system that would permit any child in New Jersey to go to any school, public or private. And it would include state subsidies for some students already attending parochial schools and yeshivas.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget slashes school funding by $1.6 billion over the next two years, establishing many more charter schools (including so-called virtual charter schools, which have no buildings), and lifting the income cap for vouchers.
This attack on public education has diverse roots, and comes not only from Republicans. Groups like Democrats for Education Reform have dedicated substantial resources to undermining teachers unions. The Obama administration has put its weight behind an agenda featuring charter schools, which employ mostly nonunion labor, as its centerpiece.
A disturbing bipartisan consensus is emerging: a market model for public schools that would abandon America’s historic commitment to providing education to all children as a civil right.
This model would make opportunities available largely to those motivated and able to leave local schools. It would treat parents as consumers and children as disposable commodities that can be judged by their test scores. And it would unravel collective bargaining agreements so that experienced teachers can be replaced with those who have little training, less experience and no long-term commitment to the profession.
It’s hard to think of another field in which experience is considered a liability and where those who know the least about the nuts and bolts of an enterprise are embraced as experts.
The market model for education fails to address the inequality and opportunity gaps that plague our schools. It is not an adequate solution; it is a diversion.
Fortunately, teachers and their allies are fighting back. We can begin to feel the rumble of solidarity, with parents, teachers, labor and youth demanding what is rightfully theirs — public schools and democratic public education.
Pedro Noguera, a professor of sociology at New York University, is the author of “City Schools and the American Dream.” Michelle Fine is a distinguished professor of psychology at City University of New York. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.