Secretary Duncan’s Proposed School Restructuring Smacks of Dressed-up Discrimination [VIDEO]

By Terry Keleher Jul 15, 2009

Borrowing from his playbook at the Chicago Public Schools, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to go national with his school “turnaround” model, First, you fire the entire staff–from teachers to kitchen workers and janitors–at neighborhood schools, typically in poor areas. Then the schools are closed or reconstituted as contract or charter schools. This approach has many racially discriminatory effects: First, the teachers fired are disproportionately people of color. The Coalition of Rank & File Educators (CORE) has recently filed a discrimination suit against the Chicago Board of Education. Second, the new charter and contract schools can often exclude certain types of students—including English language learners and those with special needs, low test scores, or disciplinary records—many of whom are disproportionately students of color. Third, neighborhood residents, who are generally low-income and people of color, are often excluded from any meaningful input and decision-making about the fate of their local schools. Also, decent-paying union jobs are lost to lower-paying non-union jobs, shutting many people of color out of vital pathways to sustainable livelihoods. What’s more, a study released last month by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that, on average, charter schools are not performing as well as traditional public schools. The “new” Obama Administration model for restructuring schools amounts to a slick move that repackages the same old agenda of union busting, privatization and racial discrimination. Fortunately, organizations like CORE in Chicago are fighting back and making some headway. Similar efforts are needed in other places to stem the tide of the Obama Adminstration’s plan to “turnaround” thousands of schools across the country. Bruce A. Dixon, managing editor at Black Agenda Reports recently wrote an excellent article detailing some of these racially discriminatory effects. Read more by clicking here.