Friday, October 19, 2012

View from right field: Smarick wants an end to urban school systems

I don't agree.
Is there any real difference between calling for an end to "urban school systems" and calling for an end to urban public schools?  I don't think so.

Andy Smarick, who works for right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Fordham Institute, tweeted me yesterday, saying that I was being unfair to him for equating his call for the destruction of urban (code word for black and Latino) school districts with destruction of urban schools, in my Twitter post. He says he was only talking about "urban districts" in his call for urban mass demolition.  Is he playing with words here? I think so.

In fact, I don't think I was being unfair at all. I told him basically to stop whining and own up to his obvious anti-public school perspective. After all, Smarick says he wants to replace urban schools with privately-run charters. He thinks urban schools are a "total failure" even though they outperform most charters by every measure,  and he claims that our urban schools system is "broken, and it cannot be fixed. It must be replaced."

He writes:
 Given urban districts’ unblemished record of failure over generations, you’d think these statements would be widely accepted and represent the core of the education-reform strategy... The blueprint for the urban school system of the future can be found in charter schooling.
Of course, he offers no evidence about this record of failure, or to support the supposed superiority of charters. The reason -- there isn't any evidence. To his credit, likeable Andy tries to find some common ground with me, tweeting, " I bet you're not always a fan of what districts do."

He's right, of course. I'm not always a fan. But public schooling is not some sporting event where fans cheer for their favorite team; i.e., the public school team vs. the privatization team. Being a critical voice is a lot different than bashing and destroying.

The dismantling of urban school districts and replacing them with a market-driven system, would mean that the neediest public schools would be left to sink or swim on their own. The mechanism through which they received public funding and support would be smashed. Parents would be completely reliant on small, often self-interested and corrupt, charter school operators for their children's education. Schools would be at the mercy of private sponsors, (Fordham itself is one) for their existence. Teachers would lose all rights to bargain collectively and all constraints on the operator's attempts to cream kids or re-segregate schools would be lost. Smarick's anti-public vision strikes at the very heart of democracy.

As Smarick writes:  
First, we must see chartering not as a sector and not even as a system but as the system for urban education’s future. The systemic practices it has introduced into public education must be the playbook for how urban school portfolios are managed. Second, we must accept that the full flourishing of this new system requires the permanent demotion and the potential cessation of the district.  
Smarick (left) and his team at Fordham
Smarick and Fordham have a record for for all kinds of unethical shenanigans. It's because of groups like this that we need government regulation. In the state of Ohio, for example, Fordham has been both a lobbyist for charters and at the same time,  a sponsor (authorizer) of charter schools. In other words, they authorize (vet) the very schools that they sponsor. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.

Despite their protestations to the contrary, privately-run charters are a source of wealth for both Smarick and Fordham. Smarick makes his money working for Bellwether Consulting, which is basically a union-busting and school privatization company run by his pal Andrew Rotherham and with clients like Louisiana Tea-Party Gov. Bobby Jindal. 

Even the most corrupt of the charter school operators, White Hat's David Brennan, is hailed as a "revolutionary" by Smarick's Fordham group.

And he's not just about smashing urban public school systems. He wants to "re-invent" government as a group of privately-run enclaves. He calls it "entrepreneurial government."

As I see it, Andy Smarick's plan calls for nothing less than the end to the institution of public education and the erosion of public space and public decision-making. Behind all his buzzwords, cliches, and obfuscating language about "innovation" and "re-inventing," he and his right-wing think tank pals are really just about narrow self-interest and the profitability for themselves and wealthy patrons like David Brennan.For me, this is about the future of democracy.

Oh yes -- fair? Yes, I'm fair. Didn't I call him likeable?


  1. I'm glad you posted Diane Ravitch's speech right next to this post. In her speech, she demolishes every claim made by Smarick about the "unblemished record of failure" of public education.

  2. Smarmy Smarick.
    I needed dramamine while listening to him spin.
    Ken Previti

  3. Here's fair: he's likely reached his stunning replace TPS with charters as a result of his desire to line hi pockets:

    he's selling his book! No shame.


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