Independent Voices: Alternative Press Coverage of the School Reform Debate

Alternative Press Center

In These Times is proud to partner with the Alternative Press Center, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing public awareness of alternative press, to present a monthly round-up of the best of independent media from around the globe. When it comes to getting the facts straight on public education, the mainstream media frequently flunks the test. It’s not uncommon to see unqualified assertions that America’s schools are “broken.” The “fix” that’s most often concealed by rhetoric about struggling students, however, is a program of privatization. As charter schools expand across the U.S. with support from the Obama administration, the alternative press has been at the forefront of covering what’s behind the “school reform” agenda. Gathered below are some recent pieces on the topic.
Managing” Michigan’s Emergency: Gutting Cities and Public Education by Dianne Feeley (Against the Current v26 n2 May 11 p. 10-11) In the May 2011 issue of Against the Current, Dianne Feeley describes the state takeover of cities and public education through emergency management legislation. The authority to appoint emergency managers has given the governor the power to undermine locally elected government, placed the financial burden of challenging that authority on already indebted local governments, and paved the way to privatize public goods—from parks to school districts. College for Dollars?” by Richard Ohmann (Radical Teacher n93 Spring 12 p.4-11) This special issue of Radical Teacher focuses on the commercialization of higher education. Richard Ohmann’s article highlights the shift toward an increasingly corporate style of management at non-profit colleges and universities. Meanwhile, he explains, the for-profit education sector is expanding rapidly, and working conditions for educators are increasingly precarious in both arenas. Professional Development: New Terrain for Big Business?” by Rachael Gabriel and Jessica Nina Lester (Rethinking Schools v26 n4 Summer 12 p. 51-54) Professional development for teachers in more and more frequently being outsourced to private corporations, explain Rachael Gabriel and Jessica Nina Lester in the Summer 2012 issue of Rethinking Schools. Their concern is that this one-size-fits-all” approach focuses on weeding out ineffective teachers and wastes an opportunity to strengthen the teaching skills of the vast majority of well-performing teachers in public schools. Getting Schooled: Occupy Targets Corporate Education” by Ari Paul (The Indypendent March 21-April 17, 2012, p.5) Ari Paul provides an overview of Occupy the DOE in New York City as teachers and community members seek to challenge mayorial control and privatization of the public school system. Occupy the DOE has provided an alternative to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which has been slow to challenge the mayor’s privatization policies. The campaign has started to push the UFT in a more proactive direction. Chicago Teachers’ Strike Looms: Going Head to Head with Mayor 1%’ ” By Rob Bartlett (Against the Current website, 8/10/2012) Chicago teachers have voted to authorize a strike if contract negotiations do not move forward in the face of an anti-union agenda that is being advanced by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and is in line with the Obama Administration’s efforts at school reform. A lot of the challenge within the union has been built by the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE). Union resistance is tied to proposals to expand work time without further compensation and changing to a merit-based compensation structure that weakens tenure. Bartlett discusses the timing of the strike and how it will interact with the elections: Some people speculate that if the strike comes in the midst of a close national election between Obama and Romney, it may provide some added leverage for the CTU. Anger over a Democratic mayor, especially one so closely associated with Obama, attacking teachers who are standing up for a better education for their students can lead to a public relations imbroglio -- but would it affect the election? In Illinois it will have no effect, but could it hurt Obama in swing states? Quebec: defiant students reject shabby government offer” by Richard Fidler (Green Left Weekly n922 May 16, 2012) In May, striking students in Quebec rejected a proposed settlement with the provincial government to end the strike. The students “…voted overwhelmingly to reject a government offer that met none of their key demands.” Growing opposition to charter schools” by Seth Sandronsky (Z Magazine v25 n5 May 12) Seth Sandronsky takes a look at the funding of, and resistance to public charter schools in California. Unequal funding compared with standard public schools, conflicts of interest among policy makers working simultaneously in the state and private education sectors, and targeting of teachers’ unions are some of the reasons fueling growing resistance.
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