Demonizing the Helpers

la-me-ln-walton-funds-la-charters-20140204-001It is not easy to demonize people who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money to help educate poor children. But some members of the education establishment are taking a shot at it.

The Walton Family Foundation — created by the people who created Walmart — has given more than $300 million to charter schools, voucher programs and other educational enterprises concerned with the education of poor and minority students across the country.

The Walton Family Foundation gave more than $58 million to the KIPP schools, which have had spectacular success in raising the test scores of children in ghettoes where the other children are far behind in academic performance.

D.C. Prep, in Washington, whose students are mostly poor and black, has also received grants from the Walton Family Foundation. Its test scores likewise exceed those of traditional neighborhood schools, as well as the test scores of other local charter schools. Other wealthy people across the country have been doing similar things for years, including high-tech tycoons like Bill Gates and Michael Dell. It is one of the great untold stories of a unique pattern of philanthropy that makes America truly exceptional.

Yet these philanthropists have been attacked by the teachers’ unions and by others in the education establishment, including academics.

It was painful to watch a well-known historian of education on a TV talk show recently, denouncing people from “Wall Street” who have promoted alternatives to the failing public schools. Apparently, in some circles, you can just say the words “Wall Street” and that proves that something evil is being done.

You can listen in vain for any concrete evidence that these philanthropic efforts to help educate poor children are creating harm.

Instead, you get statements like that from the head of the American Federation of Teachers, saying, “they’re trying to create an alternative system and destabilize what has been the anchor of American democracy.”

If government-monopoly schools, with iron-clad tenure for incompetent teachers, have been an anchor, they have been an anchor around the necks of American students, who consistently score lower on international tests than students from countries that spend half as much money per student, and yet have students who outperform our youngsters, year after year.

It is not written in the stars that youngsters in ghetto schools have to score miles behind everybody else.

Data from the 1940s show test scores in Harlem schools comparable to test scores in white working class schools on New York’s lower east side. (See “Teachers College Record,” Fall 1981, pages 40-41.)

Even today, particular minority schools — sometimes charter schools, sometimes Catholic schools, and sometimes even regular public schools headed by principals who defy the prevailing educational dogmas — turn out black students who can compete with other students academically.

Teachers’ unions and others who defend the public school establishment decry competing schools, on grounds that they are somehow undermining the public schools.

One of the claims is that these alternative schools drain money from the public schools. But expenditures per pupil in the public schools have risen during the era of the spread of alternative schools.

Of course, if there were no alternative schools, the total amount of money going to the public school system might have increased more. But this would not necessarily produce more money per student, since charter schools typically do not get as much money per student as the public schools get.

Then there is the claim that alternative schools “skim the cream” of the students, and that this explains why their test results are better. But many, if not most, charter schools select among their applicants through a lottery.

Lots of things need to be done by lots of people to improve our education system, especially for schools in minority neighborhoods. Demonizing those who are trying to help is not one of them.

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  • Naresh Krishnamoorti

    Democrats have a vested interest in seeing African-American kids fail and become dependent upon government aid. That’s the only reason they oppose charter schools. They oppose anything that empowers African-Americans to escape bondage to the Democrat plantation.

    • chuckie2u

      Heavens to LBJ ! You nailed the problem.

    • Johnny

      Plus they are in bed with the teachers unions.

    • truebearing

      Exactly. The Left has to maintain an underclass that they can use to demonize the majority. If they don’t have poor uneducated people to recruit for their revolution, all they’ll have is professors and Hollywood actors. Marxism requires poverty and failure as an incubator of envy and hate. Without widespread failure, they have no hope of ascending to power. They know education is the passage out of their prison, so it must be stopped.

  • Bamaguje

    Apparently, it never occurs to the inept self serving dimwits called Teachers union, that if public schools deliver good education, charter schools and other such alternatives wouldn’t be necessary.
    In other words the most effective way to undermine Charter schools, is for Teachers union to get public schools to perform up to par.
    But I suppose common sense isn’t that common, which is why the nitwit Teachers union – devoid of all common sense – continue to run down public schools.

    • Lark

      Its not dimwits but marxists. Just look on youtube at all the how to’s about common core. Outcome based education is that the out come is uneducated radicals willing to tolerate oppression, serfs for the neofeudalists.

    • chuckie2u

      I personally believe by stopping tenue we would see a marked difference in the quality of educators rise in proportion to the quality of education of students. The basic premise all children are going to be college material is dead wrong. By the 8th grade those without the desire or academic skills to reach college should be trained in vocational schools,tech schools or other areas to be productive members of society.

    • aemoreira81

      The teacher unions can’t get the schools up to par without student cooperation. They can only do so much.

  • notme123

    I always thought that the charter schools were started to keep kids in school that would have dropped out otherwise, and are therefore a help. I don’t get it.

    • Bamaguje

      In other words Charter schools compliment public schools, particularly failing ones.

  • Mom

    Regionalism taking away parental control and elected school boards are issues in this dogfight. The testing is the straw man. Have you seen the test questions? A naep question : how many books do you have in your home?… As for the math portion some students were given calculators.. Info from my children… An iowa test question found on both 6th 7th and 8th grade: what were cities like in the 1850? Multiple choice answers were something like this.. Quiet and dirty, dirty and noisy, loud and clean and dirty and messy…. So much of the questioning is bogus and can be graded however the grader wants to skew the data. Next the international tests use different qualifications for its data such as excluding any special needs population as opposed to the US using all population in a school. The catch all test argument does not fly but is used ad nauseum. However the psycho-social focus of school over transference of vast amounts of content knowledge is making students illiterate and posessing of narrow knowledge only of social justice. Gates and Walton and others giving loads of money to transform education from every angle seems to not be about philanthropy and helping dienfranchised youth. It is about power and control. I do understand why many conservatives find the charter/voucher idea appealing, but its a bigger story that i think you portray in This article. Gates involvement is indefensible.

    • cathnealon

      Gates funded Bill Ayers Small schools initiative with Mike Klonsky. Gates is a leftist–he may not know what the Marxists using his money are up to but one thing for sure he and his wife are libral globalsist. Nuf said.

      • cathnealon

        sorry-‘liberal globalists’

  • Jason P

    The teachers unions have always put students last. When I last taught (30 years ago) I was personal friends with the shop stewart (as I referred to him). Not once did he raise the question of teaching more effectively. I tried to get his thoughts on the issue. It was always “we need more money to do a better job.” The same old song …

    • aemoreira81

      That should not be seen as a problem, and this is why: the problem is rarely the teachers or teacher unions. Most of the time, failing students make a conscious choice to fail. The only thing that can really be done is to segregate them from the students who want to learn. The school where the teachers are above a quaternary contributing factor to failure, if that, is extremely rare. The true problem is that students are ill-prepared to succeed in cases where they are failing; the preparation must be done at the level of the household.

      Students have representation: their parents. If the parents are not doing their job, the parents need to be changed. The teachers really are the scapegoat. The teaching methods are not the problem; the students are the problem, harsh as that may sound. As for “more money”…they would bolt for schools where the students desire to learn at the first chance, even if said school is non-union.

      • glpage

        I agree that the parents have to be involved in their children’s education; if the kids and their parents aren’t interested in education the chance of success is very slight.

        We see charter schools are succeeding; most of the kids who go to charter schools to well. This indicates the parents are involved. However, not all parents who want to get their kids into a charter school can. Do those parents automatically decide to not be involved in their kid’s education? I doubt it. Yet, their kids end up not doing as well as the kids who are lucky enough to get into a charter school. So, something beyond the parents involvement is happening. That difference probably has something to do with public schools and the teachers unions.

        This country has been spending more and more money per student per year and there has been a negative return on that money. On the average, kids aren’t as well educated as they were 40 or 50 years ago. So, why should we give more money to a system that isn’t working? And why destroy a system that is working?

        • aemoreira81

          What those children who cannot get into charter schools need is for the troublemakers to be segregated out of mainstream public schools, so that the learning of students who desire to make something of themselves and be contributors in the world is not impeded. Once that distraction is out of the way, mainstream public school performance will improve.

          Charter schools and private schools can choose their enrollment and can exclude troublemakers; public schools do not currently have that out.

          • Jason P

            I agree with this separation. And charters help the process.

            My point was that the union doesn’t address these issues. When I was a teacher I was concerned with changing the institution so that we could do better. I wanted to be a good teacher and not just a baby-sitter. My union failed me. I left the field.

      • A Z

        Not true. My cousin had boy, who had not learned to read at level by 3rd grade. The masterful & ever benevolent public school teachers said it could not be done.

        He was enrolled in a Lutheran school and he learned how to read at level.

        I for one am not impressed by the teacher’s unions or public schools. Maybe it had something to do with being whacked for being left handed by a public school teacher.

  • cxt

    I think that far from the crocodile tears the Left sheds for the “poor” the Left actively undermines their chances to succeed.
    The Left depends on them for power—if the “downtrodden” can work hard, get an education and get ahead then they don’t need the Left.

  • PAthena

    When I grew up in Washington, D.C. (1940-51), the public schools were racially segregated – and the white and colored schools were excellent! Dunbar High School, the coloured academic high school, was one of the leading high schools in the U.S. Our teachers were usually elderly women who had gone into teaching when it was one of the few professions open to women, so very intelligent women went into it. Now, the bottom 25% of high school students go into it, thinking of it as babysitting.
    The charter schools do much better now than the public schools, which is why the teachers union is opposed to them.

  • Habbgun

    If these teachers had to compete to get and hold students would they see them as loyal customers with faults as opposed to the burdens that teachers always complain about?

    Educators are like any other business. They are after money and may seek unfair advantages. Like all monopolists they hate truly free markets.

    • aemoreira81

      Except that in many cases, they are burdens…not only on teachers, but on students who want to learn. For a school to succeed, the indolent members of the student body must be purged first and isolated in their own trouble schools.

  • glpage

    The only interest the left has in minorities is keeping them on the plantation to continue voting left.

  • Chiron_Venizelos

    No good deed goes unpunished.
    Amazing thing about unions–competent people don’t need them; it’s only the slackers who need a union to bargain in their stead. “Collective” bargaining–a term common to socialism.

  • nimbii

    The Congressional Black Caucus and race hustlers polarize their constituents and alienate them to the point that most will not have much chance of success.

    But, for the CBC and race hustlers, as long as they vote every two years and hit the streets when needed where’s the downside?

    They are turning their constituents into “kept” people.

  • johnnywood

    The best thing we can do for “public education” in this country is to disband the Dept. of Education,(which educates no one) and all teachers unions.