Five out of five progressive education activists at Netroots Nation agree: there cannot be choice or competition. Why? Their plans for the status quo in public schools are an integral part of implementing their progressive vision of “community schools;” the new one-stop-shop for completely unrestrained government growth and dependence.
At a recent Netroots Nation panel discussion entitled “Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education” teachers and community organizers debated a number of different topics related to education. Out of all the topics discussed, the common ground they shared was complete opposition to any true reform of public education; their “reform” looks much different.
Pondering a number of different issues from school zero tolerance policies to desegregation; panelists spoke on the education challenges facing their communities. Most of these statements focused on public school closures in impoverished urban areas. Though they cited different causes for school closures, some attributed blame for failing schools on “reform hustlers” who are seeking to “privatize” America’s public schools.
Helen Gym, an anti-charter school activist from Philadelphia even resented that so many charter schools catered to students of minority communities. Gym claimed that children and parents in predominantly black communities are “targeted” by charter operators, even while demand for charter school enrollment by Philadelphia parents is surging. Gym identified one of the largest battles she’s fighting in her area as: “This myth that somehow ‘choice’ is the new civil rights agenda for public education.”
Their solution to the “problem” of the attempts at reforming America’s failing public schools: kill school choice.
Jitu Brown, a community organizer from Chicago even claimed that school reform efforts were an attempt to “sabotage” public schools in communities of color on the basis that “America has always hated its darkest citizens.” Brown cited a particular case of school closures in a historically black neighborhood as a way for urban planners to make room for a proposed freeway expansion.
Despite the stated topic of discussion, panelists always seemed to focus on issues of race and poverty. One panelist even contended that these issues were “inextricably tied together.” To the problems of racial and economic inequity, their purported government solution is the “community schools model” or “community wrap-around services.”
Imagine a large community complex that includes not only a school, but also a medical clinic, a dentist’s office, a food bank, a social services office, and a job-training center, all under the same big-government roof.
On top of undermining union efforts to organize, school choice programs impede this progressive vision for government-facilitated community wrap-around services. Brown put it this way: “We understand that, in order to get community-driven school improvement, we have to kill the ‘privatization’ movement. The two cannot coexist.”
Two federal programs called the Full-Service Community Schools program and the Promise Neighborhoods program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education award grants of our tax dollars to school districts for this new model of “community schools.” Moreover, teacher unions offer their public support and award grants to school districts based in part on how well they emulate this model—including favored status for state mandates on school districts to implement “Family and Community Engagement.”
It is clear why progressives in general have so adamantly fought for failing public schools: they envision the humble public school as the future one-stop-shop of the welfare state—anchors of community dependence on big-government handouts.
Liberal leaning Republicans in the Texas House played into the hands of big-government progressives by standing in the way of school choice reforms last session. Straus Lieutenants Byron Cook, Todd Hunter, Charlie Geren, Jim Keffer, Drew Darby, and John Zerwas, as well as incoming Straus-friendly Republican freshmen like Jason Villalba, Trent Ashby, Cecil Bell Jr., and Ken King joined with every House Democrat to adopt an amendment banning school choice programs in the state budget bill. These liberal Republicans stand on the wrong side of this issue nationally. Ironically, even in the dark blue state of New York, the State Legislature passed a law earlier this year to protect charter schools from being curtailed in New York City by progressive Mayor Bill DeBlasio.
The children of Texas deserve quality education however it can be provided. Liberals have a clear vision for the future of public education in Texas and it looks nothing like effectively educating children. For Texas kids trapped in failing schools, the answer does not come in ever-growing government; it comes through real reform, the reform that progressives are seeking to kill.