New Report Decries Theft of Democracy in State School Takeovers

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is pushing back against the rush by state legislatures to take over the poorest schools in America’s big cities—in many cases to seize entire school districts—and run them without the oversight of an elected local school board.  Examples of such state takeovers abound these days from New Orleans to Little Rock to Philadelphia to Detroit to Newark, and recently, after the Alliance’s report went to press, Youngstown, Ohio. The new report from the Alliance declares, “(T)here is a different attack on minority  enfranchisement not addressed in the Voting Rights Act.  Instead of barriers to the ballot box, local elected governance is being dissolved altogether.”  State takeovers cluster in low-income, black and brown communities, the report explains, while across the United States 95 percent of school districts continue to be run by locally elected school boards.

In Out of Control: The Systematic Disenfranchisement of African American and Latino Communities Through State Takeovers, the Alliance proclaims: “This fall, tens of thousands of students are returning to schools that have been placed under state authority.  Elected school boards have been dissolved or stripped of their power and voters have been denied the right to local governance of their public schools. These state takeovers are happening almost exclusively in African American and Latino schools and districts—in many of the same communities that have experienced decades of underinvestment in their public schools and consistent attacks on their property, agency and self-determination. In the past decade, these takeovers have not only removed schools from local authorities, they are increasingly being used to facilitate the permanent transfer of the schools from public to private management.” State departments of education, ill-equipped to run schools and school districts, are increasingly bringing in enormous charter management companies to operate the schools now under state takeover.  While school choice is said by its proponents to empower families, parents in these now privately-run, state-held school districts find themselves disenfranchised and without leverage to shape their children’s schooling.

The new report traces the history of under-investment in these districts dominated by racial segregation and rapidly intensifying poverty: “Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Voting Rights Act (both passed in 1965), public schools have never fully served low-income students of color. Our antiquated school funding system that relies on local property taxes to support public schools embeds inequities based on race and class. When the rise of manufacturing in northern cities attracted large numbers of African American families looking for jobs, they were met with housing discrimination and redlining that led to segregated neighborhoods and segregated schools. When manufacturing left these same cities, they were thrown into decline. The loss of jobs, and later, resistance to integration led to massive white flight, further concentrating poverty in urban centers and communities of color. Over the past twenty years, systemic inequality and economic and social apartheid have intensified the challenges facing public schools serving majorities of African American and Latino students. Instead of addressing these challenges with investments in schools, neighborhoods and good jobs, the last two decades have seen the rise of an education philosophy that argues that poverty doesn’t matter. School failure is blamed on families, students, teachers, district administrations and local control itself.”

Rising achievement has not followed for the children in the state “recovery” or “achievement” districts: “These districts and schools have not seen a renaissance in academic achievement, an end to corruption or mismanagement, or financial stability. But they have seen other impacts:

Fragmentation of political power. State control removes the power to govern schools from a locally elected school board with the authority to set programs and funding for public schools. Charterized systems are worse—each school or network of schools has its own (private, non-profit) governance structure, policies and procedures…

Loss of community-based institutions. By closing public schools, removing them from local control or turning them into privately-governed charter schools, the connections between public schools and neighborhoods have been dismantled. In many cities, children no longer have guaranteed access to a school in their neighborhood…

“Increased segregation. State-run districts, by definition comprised of “failing” schools, isolate and stigmatize students and parents. Charter schools have been shown to exacerbate already-high levels of segregation in public schools…

“Financial instability. The creation of parallel school systems in many U.S. cities is undermining the financial health and stability of public schools, and resulting in devastating cut-backs in services, staffing and academic and extra-curricular offerings.”

National organizations that lead the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools are the Alliance for Educational Justice, the American Federation of Teachers, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Gamaliel Network, the Journey for Justice Alliance, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Education Association, the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, and the Service Employees International Union.

This blog has recently covered the theft of democracy due to state state takeovers of schools and school districts here and here.

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3 thoughts on “New Report Decries Theft of Democracy in State School Takeovers

  1. Now we have big brother, ” Brookings Institute”, creating a weekly newsletter that will tell all of us the truth in regard to educational research. ” Evidence Speaks” will interpret the data and research and tell us what it really means, so the rest of us will no longer need to read and analyze anything! Just take their word, so we can all move forward with the necessary reforms. No more debating the data. Simple. We are all happy campers now and can rest easy. I cannot wait to see all of those students living in poverty attending classes at Harvard and Yale. Who knew that all we had to do was raise the bar to seven feet and everyone can now jump over it. It was so simple, no wonder we could not figure it out before on our own. A little more grit and they will all be Billionaires in no time! Awesome!!!

  2. Pingback: Milwaukee Community Protests State Takeover Tucked into State Budget without Debate | janresseger

  3. Pingback: Washington Post Report Highlights Problems with State Takeovers of Schools | janresseger

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