According to a new report from The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, school takeovers and privatization are leading to the disenfranchisement of large numbers of students and their families, mostly in African-American and Latino communities.
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School takeovers, sometimes marketed as the “New Orleans Model,” strip districts of local control, placing them under the jurisdiction of politically appointed and unaccountable school boards that community members don’t even have the right to vote for. In many cases, these takeovers are simply a way to put a school district into private hands by removing voters from the equation and shuffling low-income students into charter schools that have been proven to, at best, perform no better than public schools.
According to the report:
Despite the failure to produce the promised renaissance in New Orleans, the “New Orleans Model” of state takeover and charter conversion has been marketed nationally as a new direction for troubled school districts. At the urging of the charter industry and its supporters, state legislatures across the country are now enacting or considering state-run school districts modeled after Louisiana’s RSD. These laws allow state governors or state education departments to selectively remove individual “failing” schools from their home district, and put them under state governance in what are euphemistically called “achievement districts” or “opportunity districts.” In most cases, the seized schools are immediately, or soon converted to charters.
In many cases, voters in the takeover districts have previously rejected the idea of privatization of their local schools, so mayors or state leaders take the decision out of the voters’ hands by taking over the district and then unilaterally imposing privatization schemes. Even more unsettling, of the 47,596 students enrolled in state-run districts in 2014-2015, 97% were African American or Latino.
One example of a school takeover district gone bad is Newark, New Jersey’s One Newark. According to Roberto Cabanas, the lead organizer for New Jersey Communities United:
Under state control, Newarkers are experiencing the worst of so-called ‘education reform.’ One Newark has intentionally shifted students from their neighborhood schools into charters, while also creating under-enrolled public school facilities, making them ripe for closure and charter expansion. It has placed special needs students and bilingual education students in classrooms that are not equipped to deal with their needs and the needs of their families. Essentially, state-control of Newark Public Schools has stripped the community of our voice and our self-determination. Newarkers have been told that we do not know what’s best for our own children. This type of colonialism is not ‘reform’ — it’s anti-democratic. And the people of Newark are keenly aware of this.