Thursday, July 7, 2011

Senator Landrieu Condemns Public Schools

In a recent article about a speech given by Louisiana Senator Landrieu on school turnaround efforts in New Orleans, the Senator expressed her disdain for public school teachers and administrators. She made it clear that she condemns the  many traditional public school teachers who have dedicated their lives and careers to the education of children as not being worthy of participating in school turnaround efforts.

Landrieu's exact quote is as follows: “If traditional teachers and principals can rally themselves and admit that they failed … they can be part of turnaround,” she added. “If not, they can leave.”

This verbal attack by Senator Landrieu is like a kick in the gut to teachers who have toiled in the trenches of public education, many of them for 20 or more years, and who have contributed much to the lives and futures of many thousands of disadvantaged children.

Such an attitude by a high government official demonstrates a basic distrust of public education and public educators, just at a time when educators need support to tackle some of the most difficult problems facing our public schools. It also perpetuates the myth that privatization schemes such as charter schools and vouchers offer a miracle solution to closing the achievement gap for at-risk students. Readers may want to visit a new web site that exposes major flaws in recently discovered "miracle" schools. Also, a New Orleans group that supports charter schools points out that the New Orleans voucher program that allows public school students to attend mostly Catholic schools at public expense is basically failing to improve student achievement.

The article quoting Senator Landrieu, points out that charter schools have not made a significant improvement in the education of at-risk students in New Orleans. Sure, a few charters that have perfected a system of selection of the students with most potential, are able to "game" the system and show higher test results than other schools in the area. But this is done by using direct run RSD schools as dumping grounds for special needs students and for disciplinary problems. Regular public schools do not have these options. Even so, public magnet schools and even some general admission schools all over the state have demonstrated very high performance with many different levels of student poverty.

For Senator Landrieu and others to point to a few selective charter schools as a miracle cure to the ills of education amounts to a con job for the privatization of schools. As has been demonstrated, such student selective schemes only serve to cover up the root of the problems and the need for good basic strategies to close the achievement gap. Many public schools in Louisiana are now demonstrating that all children can attend safe schools where each child has a great opportunity, but is not guaranteed to succeed. This is the realistic approach that works in the real world, not the miracle approach that is being sold by the Landrieu types.

Join the Save Our Schools March and related activities scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 1 in Washington DC. If you click here and go to the Save Our Schools web site you can find out about speakers such as Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozal and special events starting as early as this Thursday, July 7. These events should help prepare educators to defend their public schools and their profession from these unprecedented attacks.