Charters facing backlash all over country
From New Bedford to LA, the fight goes on
IT ALWAYS SEEMS to come back to charter schools.
Los Angeles teachers went on strike for just over a week and the strike ended with the teachers getting much of what they wanted — smaller class sizes, full-time nurses at every campus, librarians at every secondary school, additional counselors at high schools, a 6 percent raise, and curtailment of standardized testing.
The Atlantic saw the outcome as a symbolic victory for a teachers union that had portrayed itself as fighting not just for its members but for the 486,000 students they teach. But with the agreement came a commitment from the school district and the mayor to push the pro-charter Los Angeles Board of Education to approve a resolution calling on state officials to place a moratorium on new charter schools while a study is done examining the impact of charters on traditional public schools.
Most analysts say the resolution, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday, has little chance of passing. And there is no guarantee that even if it does pass lawmakers in Sacramento will take note and beat a retreat on charters. In other words, the fight between charter school and district school supporters is likely to go on in Los Angeles and across California.
“As the push for alternatives to traditional public schools has come to be more associated with President Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, the shift in Democratic Party politics has been especially pronounced. President Barack Obama supported expanding high-quality charter schools, and pushed teachers’ unions to let go of some of their traditional seniority protections and put more emphasis on raising student achievement.
“But after a wave of mass teacher walkouts across the nation, and with a noticeable shift to the left in the party, ambitious national Democrats now seem more hesitant to criticize organized labor. Senators Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren were among those who said they supported the striking teachers in Los Angeles. The city’s charter school leaders couldn’t help but notice that no equally prominent elected Democrat rose to the defense of Los Angeles charter schools as union leaders attacked them.”None of this is all that surprising to folks in Massachusetts, where the charter-district school warfare is unremitting. The latest skirmish is going on in New Bedford, where city officials squared off against a charter school seeking to expand enrollment dramatically. The shooting only stopped, at least temporarily, when state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley negotiated a compromise that allowed the charter to add only a third of the students it wanted in return for a vacant school and agreeing to draw students from its immediate neighborhood rather than across the district.
“In a time of great polarization, it’s heartening to see folks come together and work on behalf of who matters most, I hope, to all of us, which is our students,” Riley said.