Disassembling Unfairness Pane by Pane – What We Do When the Status Quo Throws Stones from the Glassest Houses in America

Good morning CharterFolk.

The adage goes that those living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The thought comes to mind again and again perusing the national headlines about the behavior of protectors of the education status quo right now.

We’ve all experienced …

… the allegations that are hurled against us.

That charter schools aren’t transparent.

That charter schools somehow aren’t accountable.

And yet, everywhere we turn …

… we encounter school districts doing the most unaccountable …

… untransparent things.

Moving money wherever the Establishment needs it to go to fund its own priorities.

Sucking resources away from the options that parents want in order to subsidize schools they don’t.

All done in a completely byzantine, inscrutable manner.

It’s gotten to the point that people throw up their hands and hope AI can make sense of it all.

Meanwhile parents saunter on seeing school systems that are being funded at unprecedented levels …

… making decisions that no one can understand.

The Quincy school, for example, is losing three staffers, despite a 7 percent city budget increase for next year. The loss of federal stimulus dollars are partly to blame for the staffing cuts, but other factors contributing to the loss are not so clear.

The cuts will affect Quincy Upper’s prized International Baccalaureate program, Tan said, but also come at a time when the school’s enrollment is increasing, particularly with higher needs students like English learners.

”I don’t know that any of us really understand why there are cuts,” said Tan, who also is the Diversity & Inclusion Co-Chair of the Citywide Parent Council.“It’s painful for every one of us.”

Thus, some of the least transparent, least accountable entities in modern life …

… accuse others of being untransparent and unaccountable.

It’s changing the subject.

What-about-ism at massive scale.

The audacity is breathtaking.

It’s an example of those in the glassest houses in America throwing stones.

It happens so often, so completely, and so brazenly, it becomes natural to ask how in the world they ever get away with it.

The answer, sadly, is a rather simple one.

Though they themselves throw stones constantly, they count on the rest of us not throwing anything back.

And of course, we shouldn’t.

Broken glass in public education serves no one’s interests, certainly not students.

But exposing what they are doing in a principled, accurate way such that parents and the public can understand how their dysfunctional practices harm students and communities?

That’s fair game.

A game that we must play in at whole new levels in the Era Beyond the Beginning.

It’s showing the harm that is being inflicted upon our young people by an unaccountable and untransparent status quo …

… pain by pain …

… such that we can dismantle that unfairness …

… pane by pane.

Left, Right and Center … Geographically – What’s Happening Now

Weekend greetings, CharterFolk

Thank you to so many of you for reaching out with kind words about last week’s tribute to Don Shalvey.

The volume of heartfelt remembrances that have been written about Don over the past week are testament to the impact he has had on so many. Perhaps the greatest testament of all is the volume of people forging on in a heartfelt manner to advance the work to which Don dedicated his life. That is certainly what we will attempt here.

In last Sunday’s post, I mentioned that I was working on another column when word of Don’s passing came in. My plan was to return to that other post today, but we’ve had some other developments occur this week that require our attention. So I will address those matters today and then return to my prior post next week.

I consider its topic a particularly important one:

What do we do when our representatives don’t feel that representative?

It’s a predicament that CharterFolk encounter in many contexts across the country right now.

So I’ll use a few more hours this week to make sure I get it right.

Meanwhile, I extend special thanks this week to Contributor Columnists Naomi Rubin DeVeaux and Jim Goenner for writing about new approaches to authorizing

… and to Mike McGregor for writing about new approaches to facilities financing.

We’re starting to develop something of a delicious problem here at CharterFolk. More Folk are wanting to offer Contributor Columns than we have space for (thus, my decision to cut my own “CharterFolk Short” this week to make room for other writers).

So please keep your great posts coming, CharterFolk!

We’re much stronger as a chorus than as a tenor, and this year we look to be on track to have even more contributors than the 53 we had last year.

So if you have an idea for a column, please ping me directly at jed@charterfolk.org. Nothing would please me more than to extend the mic to even more stunning CharterFolk.

On we go.

Left, Right and Center … Geographically What’s Happening Now

I thought a good frame for today’s post would be “left, right and center.”

Not from a political standpoint,though.

But from a geographic one.

Let’s start on the right coast where we saw welcome news this week.

The Wall Street Journal celebrated the progress that charter schools have made in Harlem over the past two decades.

In 2006 charters were getting started in the city and accounted for only 6% of district 5’s population. Back then only about a third—36%—of district 5’s students were proficient in math and English on state standardized tests. By 2023 the percentage of the district’s students who tested proficient in the combined scores had risen to 51%. This was almost all because of charters.

The precipitating event for the Journal’s editorial was the fact that Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts-Harlem …

… was granted unanimous approval to receive more space from the district allowing the school to add 12th grade.

Some CharterFolk readers will remember how last spring I pointed out the irony that, of all the places that charter schools would not be allowed to open a new school under last year’s agreement in the New York legislature …

… the one place would be Harlem, a part of the world where charter schools have made as profound a positive impact as anywhere.

And yet, such is the world we live in.

A year later, we see CharterFolk forging on in the aftermath of that agreement, with new charter schools set to open in many other places in the city …

… and now Success getting approval to expand in Harlem by receiving additional facilities from the district.

Surely, it’s not the full success story we would want. Not by a long shot.

But it’s progress. Forward momentum.

A lesson the rest of the country could learn from.

Meanwhile on the Left Coast

Would that the left coast might be paying greater attention!

Instead what we find, in stark contrast to the New York City school district allocating additional facilities to charter schools, is LA Unified re-confirming this week its decision to choke off charter school access to district facilities …

… despite the fact that local journalists report that the school district is so under-enrolled that it has “virtually unlimited classroom space.”

California is a highly complicated place these days.

The David vs Goliath battle in Napa Valley between a little band of heroic parents and the gargantuan status quo continues to break the parents’ way …

… inspiring parents in other parts of the state to forge on with their own efforts.

And given that the Napa Valley parents have also prevailed in court …

… on the exact same legal matter that the Establishment is now attempting to use to block growth in San Benito, the defenders of the Establishment feel like they’ve got no choice but to try to run another bill …

… that would stamp out the rights of parents to create new charter school options across the entire state.

We will see how this plays out. (More on this next week.)

But against that backdrop we saw this startling data point emerge.

California now has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Embedded within that broader jobs report lies this under-appreciated zinger which resonates deeply with our work related to public education.

Statewide, the construction sector saw the heaviest losses of 9,600 jobs, and trade, transportation and utilities lost 7,300 jobs in February. Private education and health services gained 15,400 jobs, the most of any sector.

Private education is one of the only sources of job growth happening in California right now.

Just this week, San Francisco has seen multiple stories …

… about new private schools opening …

… as the district weathers continued declining enrollment …

… and prepares for massive budget cuts.

Writing at CharterFolk, I feel a constant need to cross-check the individual articles I highlight against underlying data to make sure that what I’m portraying in the headlines reflects deeper truths happening more broadly.

This week, data showing that private education is one of the only drivers of job growth in California lends credibility to the notion that a massive privatization of public education is underway in California right now.

It is a privatization that is being driven by the fact that district public schools are becoming so unsatisfactory that large numbers of parents feel like they have no other choice but to go private.

A solution, of course, is clear:

Let charter public schools grow.

It’s a landing spot the state will inevitably come to.

Just how quickly that happens waits to be seen.

Which Brings Us to the Center

Chicago.

Another of the shining examples of what goes wrong when you entrust your city to be operated by the local teachers union.

This week a lot of attention was focused on the train wreck that continues to unfold out of the Mayor’s office …

… including allegations that the teacher union, in its desperation to avoid seeing another of its signature initiatives implode, improperly used school-based activities to support their electoral ambitions.

What has garnered less attention but may be no less significant in the long term is the stunning level of success that INCS Action

… the Illinois Network of Charter School‘s 501c4 organization, had in Tuesday’s elections.

In addition to prevailing on literally every legislative race that it got involved in, INCS Action played a decisive role in advancing a newcomer who defeated one of the longest-serving, most virulently anti-charter school legislators in state history.

This, CharterFolk, speaks to the central truth we have to embrace left, right and center.

Both from a geographic standpoint as well as a from a political one.

Yes, ultimately, policy contexts will become more supportive of charter schools because our society simply needs greater excellence and fairness in public education, and charter schools are uniquely able to help.

But just how quickly and how completely we get to those additional levels of support depends on us.

it’s not just going to happen.

We’ve got to make it happen.

Examples of CharterFolk from left, right and center pushing for faster progress in the face of great opposition provide inspiration to us all.

But millions of young people’s futures hang in the balance.

This stunning graph from The Economist puts the matter in repose.

The public education Establishment is pushing ever-higher numbers of students through the system who come out with ever-lower levels of ability.

What can our response to that be other than …

… Left, Right, Center … absolutely everywhere!

CharterFolk, we’ve got to go faster!