Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Duncan duplicity

"We must invest in public education, not abandon it."

Some mornings, upon doing my regular media scan, I can only sit here at my desk and shake my head in disbelief. This was one of those mornings.

From the Philadelphia Notebook:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement today a day after a plea from AFT president Randi Weingarten and education historian Diane Ravitch to intervene in the Philadelphia school funding crisis. Duncan offered "technical assistance" from his staff to avert what he termed an "educational crisis."

Here's the text of his statement:
There's no excuse for a public school system anywhere in the U.S. to be in this situation in the 21st century, and it's even worse to see it in Philadelphia, the cornerstone of this great country and the cradle for our founding principles. I strongly urge everyone involved to continue working together to avert this educational crisis. My continued outreach to each of the parties involved: Governor Corbett, Mayor Nutter, Dr. Hite and Jerry Jordan assures me that fixing this is their number one priority. I've instructed my staff to provide any needed technical assistance to both the district and the commonwealth. The bottom line is that doing what's right for Philadelphia students will not only benefit the city - but the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the country. Philadelphia's children didn't create these problems or ask for them - our responsibility as adults is to do everything we can to provide students in Philadelphia the world class education they deserve. Without courage and leadership, I worry greatly that Philadelphia's children will be shortchanged. We must invest in public education, not abandon it.
For those of you who read my post yesterday or who have been following the news of the near-total collapse of public education in the City of Brotherly Love, there's no need to go over the gory details. Dozens of school closings in black and Latino communities, thousands of teachers and staff (including nearly every school counsellor) being fired;  private schools, privately-run charter schools and prisons being fed millions in public funds, diverted from public schools in Gov. Corbett's new state budget.

You might be able to read in my tone that all this is personal with me. I'm in many ways a product of Philadelphia's once great public schools, having attended elementary and junior high school there before my family migrated to California. My elementary school fell victim to the wrecking ball years ago and I was heartbroken to read about the closing of Jay Cooke Junior High in February and the trail of tears left in the wake of the privatization of Fitzsimons.

Duncan's right of course. There is "no excuse" for this disaster, which comes after decades of disinvestment in the inner city, the plunder of the public school system by corporate "reformers" and privateers, under mayoral control, a state takeover and under the watchful eye of the so-called School Reform Commission. In the vanguard of this assault of Philly's public education system stood none other than Duncan's former boss and mentor in the ways of school privatization, Paul Vallas.

No, there's no excuse, except for the fact that Philly, for the past five years, was simply following the reform plan specifically laid out in Duncan's own Race To The Top, which mandates school closings, mass teacher firings, and replacing public schools with privately-run charters as a precondition for receiving badly-needed federal education funds. The worst (and final?) part of the collapse of urban public education (not just in Philly) has occurred on Secretary Duncan's watch.

For him to stand up now and order his staff to provide "technical assistance," or to call for "courage and leadership" can only be described as the height of chutzpah and duplicity. Philly's public education system, like those in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and dozens of other cities, needs an immediate infusion of federal and state dollars, to save it from total collapse.

Until then, all this talk about Common Core Standards and such becomes absolutely meaningless. Do the right thing, Secretary Duncan.


  1. There is also a group called the Philadelphia School Partnership. Except that it is not really a partnership of Philadelphia schools. They are funneling lots of money (millions of dollars) into neighborhoods where schools are closing, but only to expand charter school networks. They sure aren't sending any money to the schools that are getting hundreds of new kids from a closing schools. It's shady business all around.

  2. So he sets up school systems to fail and then offers technical assistance upon collapse? Gee. Thanks.

  3. Yes Arne. Courage and leadership.


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