As someone who is interested in weakening the power of the Building Trades Council over Philadelphia politics because of their inflationary contribution to Philly’s construction costs, I want to share Sean Kitchen’s hit on Johnny Doc’s long-standing support for education privatization while quibbling mightily with his bottom line.
Sean does a good job of contextualizing the Bill Green nomination within recent news events, and makes it all sound very sinister. But it seems to me that whether or not this is a sinister thing hinges critically on your opinion of Bill Green’s stated views on public education, which Sean blockquotes at length near the bottom of his post.
“If we were building a school system with $2.8 billion from scratch, what would it look like? . . . We really have to start with a . . . Louisiana recovery school district type model, and . . . unlimited expansion of charter schools. . . .
“The recovery school district is statewide. It takes the worst X percent of schools – it probably would need to be 20 percent in Philadelphia – and . . . basically focuses on underperforming schools. And usually makes them charter operated. . . . The success has been tremendous. Because if the charter operators aren’t working, they quickly move them. There are no politics involved. It’s the state Department of Education that makes the decisions and that’s it. . . .
“Part of the problem now is you have a school district that is managing great magnet schools, some great neighborhood schools, and some horribly run schools. You can’t do all of that well. You need more of a hyper-focus, and I think we need a separate entity with just a hyper-focus on our worst performing schools. . . .
“I would create the recovery school district, I would eliminate the School Reform Commission, and I would have the mayor appoint the school board so that there’s local accountability for the public school system.”
I personally don’t really see what the problem with this is supposed to be. Green pretty clearly isn’t saying that he always prefers charters over public schools, or that public schools can’t do a good job.
He’s saying that there are good public schools and good charters, and bad public schools and bad charters, and he wants to let somebody else have a try at educating under-served kids where they’re being, well, under-served.
And reading the tea leaves of today’s Inquirer article a bit, it’s notable that he’s saying this is about traditional public schools and public charters. He’s not saying that private schools will do a better job of educating kids, because of some blind faith in privately-run for-profit organizations like Tom Corbett and the Republicans are saying.
I read the evidence as saying that public charters and traditional public schools have similar AYP scores (some good, some bad), that private charters have worse scores on average, and that private cyber schools are running an evil scam on us all.
In light of this, Green has a decidedly non-ideological take on the issue, especially in contrast with the highly ideological view that puts seniority, and other status quo teacher union-friendly management practices ahead of what the data says is working best for kids. The main reason to oppose public charters is if you support seniority and oppose moves towards merit pay, which I personally don’t.
At bottom, this is what we should want from the head of the School Reform Commission, as long as it continues to exist in this form. (Notice Green is also saying he wants to abolish it and have the Mayor appoint a local school board). We all agree that the Philly School District has a huge funding problem driven by state cuts. But the SRC doesn’t have the power to raise revenues, so Bill Green can’t do anything to fix the revenue problem. His one mission is internal reforms – management reforms.