Tomorrow is the United Federation of Teacher’s Lobby Day in New York. I will be in Albany, New York, rallying with my colleagues and peers–my union brothers and sisters–for not just the fair, but the equal treatment of all public schools in New York; speaking against the horrid and irresponsible agenda of our Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and speaking truth to power. Public schools are highly accountable entities–they are funded entirely by the government and are directly subject to the purview of the public and elected officials, they have to operate by rules. In order for me, or any other teacher, to attend the rally we have to seek approval through a process that involves the Department of Education and our immediate Supervisors if not our Principal.
In public schools around New York City today, classes will be held, students–the political chess pieces in a complicated and involved game of graft and corruption in the Empire State–will be in school learning. But, despite all arguments to the contrary, Charter Schools are not really public schools so many–including the Success Academy Charters in New York will not be open. They will be closed so that they can bring their collateral–students–along with parents and educators to Albany under the false pretense that it is a civics lesson; a preposterous notion that may not be so false. Perhaps the lesson in civics is far more pointed than CEO Eva Moskowitz intended.
Charters get to write their own rules, and their closure for this “mass field trip” to Albany is enormous and telling evidence of that. Imagine if a public school decided to shut its doors for the day and take a bus full of students to a political rally. The school administration would be under heavy criticism for politicizing their classrooms, for misappropriating funding for political reasons, and for a thousand other reasons, eventually coming to an illogical head at bashing teacher’s unions. Heads would roll and students would suffer as the media swarmed to get the story on the school.
Charters on the other hand will bear no such criticism in the mainstream, because they are funded by the media. There will be no flurry of media asking Moskowitz for accountability. They will remain the lassiez-faire solution to the supposed monopoly of public education (there is no monopoly by the way, any more than there is a monopoly on fire departments, police departments, or street naming) because they are funded by the banksters and the corporate shills. While their hedge fund backed privatization effort moves to effectively re-segregate schools in much the same fashion as redlining re-segregates neighborhoods, they will be lauded as the answer to “failing” public schools. Schools that fail by measures created by the same interests that seek to privatize in the first place–another set of rules Charters get to write for themselves (beyond which students they get to teach, how many special education students they can service, and how much information they will disclose about their funding and spending). Worst of all, they will use their students as straw men in their counter-rally while public school students will continue a day of learning without over-extended rationales of what is appropriate learning.
There’s the civics lesson. Anyone paying attention in Citizens United America that money is not only free speech, but it’s an open pen to write your own rules, cast your own die, and make yourself exceptional to the standards of others. We live in an America where the private sector is hiding its injustices to the future of this country and the education of children inside the public sector, while saboteurs like Moskowitz and Campbell Brown attack the very bedrock upon which equity and equality and economic mobility in this country are founded on.
I’ll be out there tomorrow, talking to legislators and spreading the word that Governor Cuomo’s agenda hurts students, hurts education, and hurts New York, while Success Academy and whoever else joins them will be actively taking a stand to create an underclass of morlocks in the public schools that serve to continually prove the success of the eloi in charters–harsh but increasingly illustrative metaphor. As the Governor looks to privatize everything, I’ll leave the question to you: who will fight for equity when they’ve had their way? Who will allow teachers to voice their professional and personal opinions about the wrongs perpetrated on our students? Nobody. And with a private school system, we won’t even be allowed to unionize and speak in unison…and the powers that be will be able to clear all the pieces from the board.
If you live in New York, oppose Governor Cuomo’s agenda against schools and teachers. If you don’t, oppose them where you do live. When our free public education system is gone, we’ll be one step closer to H.G. Wells, without the benefit of any device to take us back to change things or warn anyone.