Socialist Party USA: Info & News

Charter Schools: Privatization=Stratification

Walcott’s Separate but Unequal School System
by Billy Wharton

While the new New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was busy
denouncing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP) yesterday, charter schools continued their rampage
through the City’s educational system. Two well established day care
centers in Park Slope, Brooklyn are being muscled out of their current
location in order to temporarily house the Brooklyn Prospect Charter
School. Nearly simultaneously, Walcott was providing cover for 19
other charters who wish to open up similar turf battles throughout the
city.

Brooklyn Prospect Charter School is a veteran of the school building
takeover. Charter advocates prefer the more benign “co-location,” but
the results are the same – a privately owned publicly funded charter
comes in and a public school either is moved out or squeezed into an
even smaller space. Brooklyn Prospect carried out such an invasion
during its opening in 2009 as the Department of Education allowed it
to slam itself into Sunset Park High School – despite the protests of
parents, administrators and teachers.

The twist this time is that the Brooklyn Prospect Board of Trustees
pulled the lease out from under two well recognized day care centers –
Strong Place Day Care and Bethel Day Care. The move will displace
dozens of children and send their parents scrambling to find
alternative day care sites. In perhaps the ultimate act of arrogance,
the day care centers have until this Friday to move out. This
illustrates the negative consequences of having privately owned
charter schools that both receive public funding and are able to carry
out any real estate deal they wish regardless of the consequences to
the community.

Meanwhile, in the editorial pages of the Daily News, Chancellor
Walcott was busy pledging his allegiance to these same charters. Or,
more specifically, using print space to slam the NAACP. The target of
Walcott’s ire is a lawsuit filed by the United Federation of Teachers
and the NAACP that seeks to prevent 19 charter schools from invading
existing public schools. Walcott claimed that school space “does not
belong to a school, it belongs to the students.” This was his way of
saying that the invading charters, because they will have students,
somehow therefore have the right to displace existing public schools.

And, in Walcott’s mind at least, the NAACP is to blame for holding up
the invasions and employing “disrespectful and in no way productive”
rhetoric to the discussion. This is, of course, a reference to the
NAACP’s New York State Chapter President Hazel Dukes’ comment that
pro-charter school parents were “doing the business of slave masters.”
For Walcott, resistance to the invasions amounts to “the
NAACP…turning its back on thousands of families across New York City.”
Yet, when Dukes issued the “slave master” comment she also went on to
advise such parents to “keep your facts [straight].”
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The facts are precisely what Walcott seeks to avoid in his op-ed. The
fact that charter schools have had, according to recent studies,
mediocre performances even on standardized tests. The fact that the
Kingsbridge Innovative Design Charter School recently closed down
because of fiscal management issues thereby displacing 140 students in
its school – something that would never happen in a public school.
And the fact that, as NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous so
correctly stated, the charter schools are an attempt to re-build a
school system using the old cover of “separate but equal” that defined
segregated schools before the Civil Rights movement.

The message here is that Walcott needs to get it straight. Remember,
he is supposed to be the more rational choice for Chancellor after the
corporate flunky Cathy Black left the building. Yet, his soft-styled
demeanor can no longer hide the fact that he is doing the bidding of
the politically powerful and economically well-heeled charter schools.
He does not represent the interests of New York City public school
students or their parents or their teachers. If he did he would be
signing an order to eliminate all charter schools, to convert their
facilities to public schools and to create a commission to re-think a
curriculum and a school governance plan that is administered
democratically. Until then, Walcott appears satisfied to live up to
the category Dukes created for pro-charter school parents. New York
parents should resist, by all means available, the separate and
unequal school system the charters wish to create.

***
Billy Wharton is a writer, activist and the editor of the Socialist
WebZine. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the NYC
Indypendent, Spectrezine and the Monthly Review Zine. He can be
reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Become a FAN on Facebook.

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