Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I don't think so.
Somehow Diane Ravitch and I ended up in a Twitter skirmish today with the Fordham Institute's Mike Petrilli. Petrilli is claiming that there's no privatization of public schools going on. Being a protege of conservative think-tank guru Checker Finn, he has learned the art of defining his way out of arguments, playing word games instead of getting to the heart of the matter. I already knew this going in, but bit anyway.

Petrilli fires the first shot at Ravitch:

Diane, name me one "reformer" who wants to privatize public schools.  

Ravitch quickly names not one, but 6, before she runs out of Tweet space:  George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Margaret Spellings, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan=Corporate education reform.
I simply retweet Ravitch's answer, which draws Petrilli's fire towards me, narrowly nicking my Tweet finger. 
Michael Petrilli: None of those folks want to "privatize" public education.
I whirl and fire back:
Mike, what else would you call closing thousands of public schools & handing them over to private operators?
And again: 
Not to mention after-school programs, food services, security, curric. devlp., special ed, sports programs...
Oh, I ran out of space before I could mention tax-free real estate ownership of land including the ability of charter companies to leverage low-interest loans and pay execs huge compensation packages. Don't worry, Ravitch will bring that one up.
OK, so it's not a fatal blow. Petrilli ducks and fires with both barrels using the old re-definition gambit:
Michael Petrilli If the schools are open to the public, supported by public $$ and accountable to the public, they are public.
Uggh, I'm hit. He's got a point. But it's a weak one. It barely grazes me. Diane comes to my aid:
Diane Ravitch When charter schools pay $400,000 to CEO, when they fight public audits, when they kick kids out...not public.
I double-team: CMOs aren't accountable to the public, even admit they're private when it comes to NLRB and unions.

Then Petrilli goes where you knew he would:
Your definition of a public school seems to be "Staffed by members of public employee unions."
Now, I admit, I'm getting pissed: 
Save the union-baiting Mike. Not a question of who staffs them. It's who controls them, profits, signs pay checks

Nuts, I let him off too easy on that one. It takes a privatizer to ban unions when the public system is based on collective bargaining rights for teachers. It's precisely this union hating which puts Petrilli in league with the worst of the privatizers. Oh well, it was in the heat of battle. I'll get him next time. 

Diane Ravitch chimes in:  Privately managed deregulated charters are privatization. Decimates public sector. Nepotism ok.
I'm beginning to realize that this debate isn't moving anybody. It's an argument over the definition of the word privatization, and Petrilli won't move past that. He doesn't want to say he supports privatization and therefore is an enemy of public schools. It's only their union-free management he's after. Fordham is involved in the operation and authorization of privately-run charter schools in Ohio. 
But before signing off, I call on the old guy, Sun Tzu. Remember-- my enemy's enemy is my friend:
If u don't think they're private, Mike, your argument is with them--not me.
A Chicago charter school that has received more than $23 million in public money since opening in 2004 is arguing that it is a private institution, a move teachers say is designed to block them from forming a union. In papers filed with the National Labor Relations Board, attorneys for the Chicago Math and Science Academy on the city's North Side say the school should be exempt from an Illinois law that grants employees of all public schools the right to form unions for contract negotiations.-- Chicago Tribune, "Charter school says it's private"
Take that, Petrilli.  So far no response.


  1. It felt like I was right there in the ring with you. All kidding aside, it's nice to engage in spirited debate and thankfully, there's plenty of that to go round nowadays. Thanks for sharing, it helped me gain a better understanding of the concept of privatization and how it relates to public and charters.

  2. Touché!

    That was a totally entertaining post with a really great title.


  3. This is the same genius who concluded that the decline in arts education for African American and Hispanic students is due solely to the demands of teachers' unions.

    Only took a few tweet replies pointing out that, uh, duh: NCLB is the cause -- for him to pack his keyboard and slink away.

    Bullies run.

  4. Are these schools public, private, or both? I think you've crystalized the argument for me: Charters are where the bastard kids go.

  5. Nothing wrong with charter school kids or with teachers. It's only about the way charters have been taken over and used against public ed. Stupid to attack the individual schools, kids, teachers, parents, etc...

  6. Petrilli made one good point. If we concede that charters are private, then we give up public decision making and rights to unionize. More correct to say, they are a step towards privatization.

  7. I don't see how this can result in any outcome other than separate and unequal schools. This is in no sense school reform, it's a pure political reaction. These bozos want to drag us behind the bus, again. They must be stopped.

  8. Matthew, I 100% agree with you about "separate and unequal schools." Ind. Gov. Daniels will soon sign a bill authorizing more charters, and 25% of charter teachers can be unlicensed!

    When Arne Duncan talks about education being the civil rights issue of our time, and he knows that this is what the privatization of our public schools will achieve, his hypocrisy makes me cross-eyed.

    If only Obama could wake up and see what will happen to the urban children ...

  9. They are a step towards privatization.Hispanic students is due solely to the demands of teachers' unions.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.