Education in Oakland

What They Really Think

Posted by novometro on March 13, 2009

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.


3 Responses to “What They Really Think”

  1. Chris Vernon said

    It seems incredibly naive on your part to imply that donations going to Oakland’s charter schools come with no strings attached, that there has not been a orchestrated effort on the part of Broad/Gates/Rogers/O’Connell/Jerry Brown to tamper with OUSD in a very destructive manner, using it as a laboratory for their ideas on how public education should be deconstructed and rebuilt. This has all been well documented.

    The parent you are implying is a racist has worked tirelessly at the public schools her children have attended working to improve the educational experience of all the kids there, most of whom were and are from racial minorities. She is not suggesting that parents are necessarily making the wrong choice by sending their kids to a particular charter school, but looking at the bigger picture – which you seem to be only too happy to obscure. She’s looking where the money flows to and from – you can draw your own conclusions from there.

  2. Sharon said

    Hi novometro person,

    It looks like we’re both worked up, but about different things.

    I would not be this upset if a proposal for transforming our school district into a charter school district had been placed before the citizens of Oakland, and they had voted for it after a sufficient amount of informed discussion and debate. Something of this magnitude should have been a decision made by Oakland’s residents, after they had been made aware of the many long term implications (both pro and con) that this major change would mean.

    But that was not how things were done. This was planned and implemented behind closed doors and was generated by a set of extraordinarily wealthy people, almost all of whom live somewhere other than Oakland, and none of whom use the public schools here. So I find it very odd that you charge me with paternalism.

    No, this alteration to our city’s 156-year-old public school district was done by NOT informing the citizens about it, and then asking them to vote for their consent. It was the result of a district take-over, which was determined to keep public discussion completely blocked. Maybe the points and alternative views I’m trying to reveal are just making up for years of lost time; no one is used to hearing much opposition, are they?

    Apparently, the charter school pushers feel they need an authoritarian situation to make things go their way, because they are doing the same thing in NYC and DC. Please tell me why are they so reluctant to let the general public decide about formally going down the-charter-school-road, or not, if everything about the schools they want are so great?

    As the students at Roosevelt Middle School are learning, “Jefferson believed in the People. They can make good decisions when given enough information.” I just happen to believe this is the place where we need to return.

    Active OUSD parent since 1993

  3. will be interesting to see what happens when categorical opponents of charter school expansion run into Obamba’s “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach run by a sec of ed who keeps an open mind on charter schools.

    i can’t claim to have closely followed the moves and counter moves of the Eli Broad Bill Gates funded people vs local school board local public school parents and teachers union. However, on a “follow the money” approach I just don’t see a powerful short term profit motive behind Broad and Gates attempts to influence/steer change in public education. One can say they are heavy handed, anti-democratic, educationally wrong, etc but their motives are at least as pure as some of their opponents, if not more so because their own jobs are not at stake.

    -len raphael

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