Jim Horn of Schools Matter pored through the 200-page document describing the plan for the immediate future of the Memphis public schools, and this is what he learned.
The Memphis schools will be merged with the schools of Shelby County, allegedly for efficiency. But in fact, the plan is to implement a massive transfer of students to charter schools.
By 2016, a mere four years from now, enrollment in charter schools will increase from 4% to 19%. This will happen not because parents or students have asked to be assigned to charters but because the planners want it to happen (one guess as to who devised the plan).
This will result in a handover of $212 million of public funds to privately managed charter schools.
That is, $212 million will be removed from the budget of the public schools and transferred to charter schools whose governance is private and not subject to local, democratic control.
The plan acknowledges that costs will be greater “due to loss of scale” and the introduction of multiple managers, but cost savings will realized by such measures as teacher layoffs and the replacement of experienced (expensive) teachers with inexperienced and less expensive teachers. If the teacher layoffs and other strategies are insufficient to save money, there is a contingency plan to add to savings by laying off 115 librarians.
The plan was devised by a “transition planning committee.” The secretary of the committee happens to be the executive director of Stand for Children (are you surprised?).
Tennessee is a state with a Republican governor and a Republican legislature. The state commissioner of education is Kevin Huffman, who previously worked for Teach for America (and yes, readers, he is Michelle Rhee’s ex-husband). The “Achievement School District,” which is taking charge of the state’s lowest performing schools, is run by Chris Barbic, a TFA alum who created the Yes Prep charter network in Houston.
It is simply mind-blowing to watch this small cadre of people who are associated with TFA, Gates, Broad, Stand for Children, and the Walton Foundation colonize and privatize America’s public schools. Who elected them?
P.S. In a comment to this post (scroll down to find it), a resident of Memphis who is also a director of Stand for Children wrote to disagree with Jim Horn’s description and with my reactions to it. This comment added the commission’s summary, linked below. I read it and did not see a justification for the large expansion of privately managed charter schools. If charter schools don’t get different results from public schools, as the preponderance of studies show, what’s the point of shifting over $200 million out of the public schools. Nor was it apparent from the commission summary why the public schools could not offer universal pre-K or the other initiatives here proposed. Then I noticed that the background work for the commission was prepared by the Boston Consulting Group, the same management consultants that recommended the privatization of 40% of Philadelphia’s public schools. I found that more worrisome than Jim Horn’s account. (Mitt Romney’s old firm, Bain, was a spin-off from the Boston Consulting Group.)