Today the New York Times published an article on shared space and the charter school movement in New York City.
This article highlights the inequities of the charter school movement under the current administration and the tragedy of shared space and its negative impact on successful public schools, the community centers for our children. The article dims however, at taking to task the DOE and Bloomberg for their ridiculous shared space formula that disables the quality education our students deserve; it is a policy that forces students and teachers into closets, shared rooms, and treats their special education, intervention, social service, health, and enrichment services as "luxuries". The article also fails to note the budgetary impact; as we outsource public money and resources into the hands of private business running public schools, only by name only because of said outsourcing of funds, our true public school budgets have been drastically cut and the more than 90% of New York City students who attend these public schools go with less. This is a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is inequitable. It is unjust. It is undemocratic. It is unethical.
What can money buy you in New York City? Apparently not your own real estate. Instead, these corporate backed, millionaire and billionaire donor driven private companies and organizations, use public money and public resources to fund their school experiments. They force our students out of classrooms and community space while also receiving public funded transportation, food services, and health services in addition to their per-pupil public funding which nearly matches public schools.
What they do not spend in real estate and resources, they make up for elsewhere: Their money buys the votes and voices of policymakers who bow to corporate interests that seek to reinforce the system of privilege and subordination we have in this country. Their money buys the custodial staff to privilege their school's needs first. Their money buys fancy computers, paint, and new furniture. It buys them glossy flyers, robo-calls, mailers, and t-shirts. It can buy them press coverage, even the final say in the New York Times!
What their money cannot buy them, not because they choose not to as in the case of real estate, but because of the nature of their movement, is integrity, truth and honor. Spencer Robertson, the founder of PAVE Academy proves once again that he is unqualified to run a school and undeserving of our respect with his comments in the NYT piece and he highlights the lack of integrity, truth, and honor behind the charter movement. He says he doesn't know "who the they is" in the fight to protect our public schools and resources... ummm... the 'the they' is You! He says they expect to get a two year extension in the PS 15 building because their plans for real estate fell through... and our children should suffer for your incompetence? He says PS 15 has been a mostly good neighbor... we are not neighbors, you are guests, the worst kind, who extend their stay without asking and are clueless (or at least pretend to be) as to the negative consequences you are having on the native residents... read the history of colonial expansion much? This movement, and the people who drive it and fund it, root themselves in an ideology that goes against everything our public education system was created to stand for and accomplish. Their movement takes us back to separate but equal, opens the door for privatization and it mirrors the devastating economic system, that we have seen repeated with the prison system and our military, of outsourcing public funds and public interests to private corporations and companies. They do all of this as the Orwellian language slides off their tongues and they claim it's all 'for the children' because... wait for it... 'education is a civil rights issue'. Damn right it is; that we can agree on.
Money can buy you power, and in NYC, money and power go a long way. What our neo-liberal and conservative friends fail to see however, because their money blinds them, is the ultimate consequence of their race to the top, their greed, their pestilence; the undermining of our society, the destruction of our democracy, the ruin of what it is that makes us great; an ideal that in this country all are created equal, that we have rights, and among them, we decided long ago, is the right to a free and fair public education that rejects separate but equal and seeks to prepare thoughtful citizens of the world.
Money can buy you a school in New York City. It can buy you stolen goods off the backs of our children and their schools and it can place you on the front lines of a movement to dismantle public education. Luckily for us, the parents of teachers of CAPE, we don't have money. All we have is our integrity, truth, and honor. We have our voices and together we call for the protection and preservation of public education and our community public schools.