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Public schools, private interest

National debates about charter schools eventually engage the question “public or private?” The Washington Post (Feb. 28, 2015): “There is a substantial body of research concluding that charter schools are accelerating re-segregation by race, class, measured achievement, special education status, and English-Language Learner status.”

If charters are generally so segregated, then are publicly funded charters “quasi-private,” selectively serving preferred students? And the purported partial privatization of public schools may be apparent in other ways: If a public high school’s in-house college prep curriculum is de facto monopolized and dictated by a private “nonprofit” corporation (College Board), is that high school “quasi private” and in practice is there equal access in this “market” for innovative teaching outside College Board orthodoxy?

Is the public need in a democracy for broadly versed, critically thinking citizens being usurped in schools by an overbearing private interest in producing good workers and consumers and are these objectives compatible?

As a teacher, when I am not distracted by banalities such as standardized testing and the forever shifting sands of pop pedagogy, these are some of questions about which I wonder and hope that we have considered, albeit after the fact, their full implications to our endangered democracy.

John B. Hagney, 2012 Washington state regional teacher of the year


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