The Great Education-Reform War: Neither side has an end game

Updated: May 10, 2019

As opposing forces in the Great Education-Reform War deepen their trenches, as poison-pill bills aimed at charter schools wend their way through legislatures in the blue states and charter school advocates counter with lobbyists and anti-teacher-union screeds, I wake up in the middle of nearly every night with with one thought:

Have we all gone out of our minds? What is the end game?

The movement for chartered schools is not going away. It has provided new opportunities for thousands of young people and educators across the US. It has an army of families who love their schools and it is backed by money from some of the nation’s fiercest capitalists.

The teachers unions and the broader progressive movement aren’t going away either. The unions have history, helped create the great middle class and have racked up recent wins in states where teachers were horribly underpaid. They and progressives, generally, are united in contempt of “privatization.”

No one is going to win this war. We are all losers and the longer it goes on the more we will lose. There is no end game.

Meanwhile, Trump and DeVos fan the flames.

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Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993, told this parable: a rabbi, a priest and an imam, are each walking the cobblestone streets of the city revered by all three faiths, each lost in thought, imagining a perfect Jerusalem devoid of the other two. Kollek’s Jerusalem, on the other hand, was a place of incandescence where the fires of three faiths burned far brighter together than any one of them would on its own. Kollek was a beloved peacemaker who was eventually defeated by a candidate who knew how to capitalize on the divisions that Teddy spent his life trying to reconcile.

If only it weren’t easier to break things than fix them, the peacemakers of the world would stand a much better chance. It’s hard, though to give peace a chance with arms and misinformation industries dedicated to conflagration and a ratings-obsessed news cycle churning out mayhem.

This is not to suggest that our response to attacks on charter schools is to do nothing—we will protect our schools. This is a call for engagement and an end of vilification, not pacifism. Those who dedicate their lives to teaching our children, whether they are in district or charter schools, whether they are members of a union or not, have far many more agreements than disagreements. It’s time for those who have chosen sides as to how our schools should be managed and governed and what public school accountability should look like to chill. We can seek understanding of the issues that divide us or we can continue to dig trenches and lob grenades. I hope we choose understanding.

And I hope that many of you, a great many of you, will come to Albuquerque this fall to join us in discussions about the problems that are affecting us, our schools and all public education. One of the reasons we chose Albuquerque for our conference is because of the spiritual heritage of this awesome part of our country. We’re coming to New Mexico to share the wisdom that comes from our collective experiences as educators and to seek the wisdom of the ancient ones in healing the divisions that are tearing us apart.

Road trip, anyone?

Join us in Albuquerque

Steve Zimmerman, CPICS Director


© 2020 Coalition of Public Independent Charter Schools

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