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School turnarounds prompt community backlash

‘Our concern is that these [school turnaround] reforms have further destabilized our communities,’ said one organizer.

The federal government’s push for drastic reforms at chronically low achieving schools has led to takeovers by charter operators, overhauls of staff and curriculum, and even school shutdowns across the country.

It’s also generated a growing backlash among the mostly low-income, minority communities, where some see the reforms as not only disruptive in struggling neighborhoods, but also as civil rights violations because school turnaround efforts primarily affect black and Latino students.

“Our concern is that these reforms have further destabilized our communities,” said Jitu Brown, education organizer of Chicago’s Kenwood-Oakwood Community Organization. “It’s clear there’s a different set of rules for African-American and Latino children than for their white counterparts.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office has opened investigations into 33 complaints from parents and community members, representing 29 school districts ranging from big city systems such as Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., to smaller cities including Wichita and Ambler, Penn., said spokesman Daren Briscoe. Two additional complaints are under evaluation, and more cities, including Los Angeles, are preparing their filings.

Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan fielded complaints at a public forum in Washington. The forum was attended by some 250 people who boarded buses, vans, and planes from around the country to demand a moratorium on school closings and present a school turnaround model that calls for more community input, among other items.

The recurrent theme is that communities are fed up with substandard education, but they want solutions that will not create upheaval at the schools, which are often seen as pillars of stability in neighborhoods where social fabric is fragile.

(Next page: An alternative to school closings?)

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Comments:

  1. trainer12

    February 4, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    There is no doubt that public education has failed us as a nation. So the solution that is being put forward is to fund “charter schools” and/or give “vouchers” to parents to send their kids to private and parochial schools, and punish under performing schools and school districts by cutting off funding. You couple that with cutbacks due to loss of real estate, state,county and municipal taxes because of the 2008, leading to teacher layoffs and you add more fuel to the fire of “see, public education doesn’t work, so why should my tax money go to pay for it?” And “why should I pay for other people’s children’s education.” “They should take personal responsibility for their children’s education.” “The government has no role, shouldn’t have a role and can’t provide public education effectively so it should get out of the education business.” “The private sector can do it better and cheaper than public education can.” “Besides, the public education systems are controlled by the teacher unions who won’t change, and protect teachers who can’t teach effectively.” These are some of the reasons working against reform. Don’t get hoodwinked by the charter and voucher movement, whose real goal is to destroy public funding for education, all the while living off the taxpayer paying for the for profit charter schools and vouchers, while they bleed local school districts and tax base dry.

  2. okayfine87

    February 5, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Why can’t parents of a school personally–majority rules–just turn their current public school into a charter school?

  3. kevinsmith5

    February 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Trainer12 is apparently misinformed about what a charter school is. A charter school IS a publicly funded school. To say opening charter schools is an effort to kill public education is an oxymoron.