The Flavor of the Month
(This column is excerpted from Jill Levy’s
speech to the union membership at the CSA Conference at the
New York Hilton. The complete speech can be read at www.csa-nyc.org.)
Each year, you attend this Conference
to demonstrate your genuine and unswerving loyalty to the
education of children – a
dedication that transcends politics, reorganizations, budget
crises, and the latest sexy “flavor of the month” in
This month’s flavor is Charter Schools and it is no
mere whim that Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg strongly support
charter schools and want to control them. Mr. Klein has repeatedly
said privately to me, and publicly that he believes that charter
schools are “the answer.” The answer to what?
Are charter schools the answer to
responding to parents, being collaborative, bringing the “public” back
into public education?
Or are they simply the precursors
to vouchers? Are they the precursors to privatization? (By
the way, the new buzz word for privatizing education is “entrepreneurialism.” So,
if you’re not entrepreneurial, you can’t be a good
leader. Well forget it. We know where that’s going.)
Here’s another question: Is this quest for charter schools
a way to get rid of professional unions—the unions that
they don’t want to deal with; the unions that they do
not respect; the unions that, in fact, speak for their members?
Their fondest desire is to do with you what they will – move
you, fire you, intimidate you, harass you. Read the November
30 Education Week to find out Joel Klein’s views about
union contracts and “entrepreneurialism”.
Joel Klein said: “In a system that is producing results
that we as a nation find somewhere between awful and deplorable,
we need to think seriously about an environment that’s
going to foster entrepreneurialism so that we have innovation
in the system.” How dare he say that? Yes, we have issues.
Yes, we need to do better in some cases, but, deplorable?
Joel Klein’s embrace of an entrepreneurial system would
have us working in a school system that bends to the whims
of private funders and their ideas about what education is.
Tweed and its cadre of young MBAs creates new, untested policies
and reorganizations and calls them “reforms.” This
house of cards, funded by outside interests, will come tumbling
down when, guess what, all these private philanthropists move
on to the next flavor of the month for them.
And who gets left to pick up the pieces?
We do! When this new experiment
fails, who will be blamed? We will, the school administrators
first to get blamed when things go wrong and the last to get
Well, Mr. Klein may still think
that the reorganization is “a
work in progress” or that you’re “on the
right track”, or “moving in the right direction,” but
he needs to know that you, every one of you, supervisors, administrators,
teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, school aides, all of
you, you are the people who struggle to keep ahead of that
train that’s on the “right track” and its
ever-changing rules and mandates. You are the people that Joel
Klein should be applauding today.#
Jill Levy is the President of
the Council of School Supervisors and