When opponents of charter schools claim that education reform is a stalking horse for corporate interests with an eye on public money, there’s often a crude paternalism buried under the paranoia. The ugliness is usually unspoken, but a recent comment by a parent on the Oakland Tribune’s education report offers a rare sighting of the racism and classism that distorts the education conversation in Oakland.
In a comment on the Tribune’s website, and in an email to Oakland Unified’s Governing Board, the parent of a student at Skyline follows the money from the Rogers Foundation to non-profit organizations like the California Charter School Association and New Leaders for New Schools. (The editors of OakBook invited Rogers to write a letter in support of charter schools, and the Rogers Family Foundation has given money to support education coverage on the OakBook website.) But rather than see the donations for what they are – money going to Oakland’s students, the idea is to outline a conspiracy of cash that aims to hijack public schools and the money that comes with them. It’s tired stuff.
Here’s what’s shocking. She goes on to say that charter schools are “shiny baubles.. dangled before parents eyes, which makes the schools very tempting to them.” She makes it clear in the her next paragraph that “low income communities of color” are the primary dupes in this corporate scam. She believes she can see the big picture, but poor black and brown parents are not capable of making education decisions that make the best sense for their families. Opting to put one’s child in a charter school comes from ignorance only. The phrase “shiny baubles” shows precisely the level of intellectual sophistication she imagines can be found in “low income communities of color.”
The corporate takeover scare tactic doesn’t have much sting anymore, it will disappear on its own. But racism and classism must be confronted and exiled from rational discussion about charter schools in Oakland.