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Guest column: The cost of resegregation
Sunday, 02 May 2021 13:23
By CECIL BOTHWELL
Special to the Daily Planet

 

I’m child-free but I’m happy to pay for public schools because I greatly prefer living in a culture peopled by the educated. 

To the degree that we all share some basic knowledge we are able to communicate with each other, even if we disagree on policy or goals. There are, however, those who fully intend to end public schooling and turn education over to the private sector. 

Leading the charge toward privatization, the American Legislative Exchange Council has made elimination of public schools a core goal. 

Following the lead of economist Milton Friedman, ALEC has crafted legislation to that end. As Friedman told attendees at ALEC’s 2006 meeting, “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? … The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system … “ 

ALEC’s strategy is to first advance the spread of charter schools which divert both students and funding, next to advance the use of vouchers, then to attack the performance of public schools in order to make an argument for funding cuts, and eventually to make all education private. 

A key piece of the advocacy for charter schools is to exempt them from public school rules such as mandatory testing, requiring licensed teachers and providing transportation. 

Further, you don’t pick the school, the school picks you. Then, if all schools are private, only those who can pay will be educated.

Of course the arguments made for such plans are always “high-minded.” Charter schools give parents and students more choices, vouchers grant opportunity to those who can’t otherwise afford “better” schools, and demanding teaching certificates limits the available pool of educators in a time when there is a teacher shortage.

Here in North Carolina we’ve seen this show before. At one point our state was at the bottom in terms of student success but changes were made. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg system, made remarkable progress in the 1990s as it became fully integrated, leading the state in its rebound from low performance. Our state became the first in the South to score above the national average in reading and math among 4th graders.

Then CMS changed course, shifting to expansion of charter schools and dropping its goals regarding system-wide integration. Test scores fell. A book-length study of CMS, “Yesterday, Today and Tommorrow,” (Harvard Education Press, 2015), reports, “irrespective of their ethnicity, race or social class students are more likely to make academic gains in math, reading and often science by attending diverse schools.” 

Why are Asheville City Schools determined to repeat those CMS mistakes? 

That is the path currently being pursued by Superintendent Gene Freeman and the board: move pre-K out of the public system, drop integration goals, tout the benefits of vouchers (re-labeled as “scholarships”) and advocate a “market” system.

Asheville parents deserve to know why these changes are in the works. Answers have not been forthcoming. 

As a non-parent who prefers to live in an educated society, I want those answers as well.
Cecil Bothwell is a former member of Asheville City Council.

 



 


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