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Friday, December 17, 2010

Gates-funded charter school "compact" vs. the real thing

Bob Hughes of New Visions and James Merriman of the NYC Charter Center, beneficiaries of gobs of Gates money, join together in the Daily News to praise the one-sided Gates-designed “compact” signed by Chancellor Klein as well as the leaders of other districts around the country who receive Gates money. Nice little self-appreciation club, guys.

Real parents and other stakeholders were as usual left out of the discussion.

Not mentioned in the “feel-good” oped is how the actual “compact” requires that NYC continue to provide charters space in district buildings – which has sparked controversy and bitter battles as district public school children are increasingly squeezed out of their own schools, into basement rooms or even hallways.

As usual, the heedless charter lobby continues to be their own worst enemy, as resentment against charter schools grows as a result of their greedy actions. Unfortunately, in our chronically overcrowded, space-starved and underfunded system, the provision of a quality education continues to be a zero-sum game, as many of our neediest students suffer under worse and worse conditions with the continued proliferation of charters. While the city is contributing more than half a billion dollars to charter schools, the budgets of district schools continue to be slashed to the bone.

Finally, although the "compact" calls for sharing best practices, it would be more convincing if they and their sponsors admitted what is obvious to most independent observers: that many of the best charter schools and small schools benefit from the smaller classes which are denied the rest of New York City students. But I imagine that would be taboo, given the insistence of Bill Gates that class size for public school kids doesn't matter. (For more on this, see my latest Huffington Post column, Bill Gates, Bloomberg, Cathie Black and the Condescension of the Oligarchy, and this Alternet article, Where Does Billionaire Bill Gates Come Off Saying Bigger Class Size is the Answer?)

For a charter/district compact with principles that, if enacted, would provide real equity and opportunity for all NYC children, check out the framework of common principles that Class Size Matters and NY Charter Parents Association developed with input of actual public school parents from both sets of schools. As parents had a say in its design, it includes the key issue of class size.

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