School seats for sale
29th June 2011 · 1 Comment
By Dr. Andre M. Perry
Charter school opponents have long argued that chartering would lead to the privatization of public schools. Guess what? Give a building and you too can become a school board member with the passage of House Bill 421.
The bill allows for a charter school to guarantee up to 50 percent of its seats for the children of permanent employees of a business that donates land, provides a facility, subsidize major renovations or make significant investments in technology. The bill also authorizes employees to serve on the school’s board of directors as long as they don’t comprise the majority.
Clearly the sponsors and its supporters sought to use schools as a carrot to recruit businesses to the region. They also see this bill as an opportunity to incentivize collaboration between schools and businesses in ways not that dissimilar from the relationships many community colleges have with their publics.
I’ve heard directly from major employers, who sought a new base of operation and were accustom to having quality public options, express their reticence to coming to Louisiana because of underperforming schools. In addition, if a large chicken-processing plant wants to give its community and its families better options, then why not allow them to take proactive steps?
Put yourself in the shoes of an employee. Do you really want your boss to have explicit incentives to place your son or daughter in the “company” school? Do you really want your bosses to know your child’s test scores, grades and conduct?
In regards to using a charter school as a recruitment tool, the bill assumes a pretty depressing view of community members. It’s a grim admission that communities can’t improve their schools to where they become magnets for businesses. It furthers that sentiment by facilitating an educational gated community to protect employees from the neighborhood it shares. Moreover, why enable the fetish that business leaders and principles can solve all problems.
Public education advocates are up in arms with this bill. They should not be shocked by it. Particularly in small towns, businesses have always had tremendous influence on the day-to-day lives of community members. However, influence on schools should come principally and organically through employees as individuals, not the corporation. Employees should invest socially, educationally and politically in their communities. The State shouldn’t legislate those types of investments. Individuals – even those who work at a big company – should become members of communities before they run them.
Most importantly, public schools should be dedicated to facilitating a commonness amongst its diverse constituents. That’s hard to do when your boss is also your educator.
I’m all for encouraging the business community to get involved in schooling, but the return on investment should not be control or contractual partnerships. Businesses should invest in public schools to simply become better neighbors.
This article originally published in the June 27, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.