Charles Kerchner, a scholar at the Claremont Graduate School in California, has some interesting reflections on the LAUSD vote against the Eli Broad plan to take over half the students in the district.
He writes to contradict the reformers’ claims that they are above politics. Quoting a paper by pro-reform Paul Hill of the University of Washington and an associate, Kershnernotes that reformers are just as political as unions and others who push back. Although they don’t like to admit it, reformers are an interest group. (I add: their power derives not from numbers but from money.)
“The rhetoric of school reform treats portfolio creators as free of political interests in contrast to rapacious teacher unions and self-protecting school administrators. Because they, and the schools they create, are free from politics, they can innovate and adapt rapidly, outpacing the sluggish pace of incremental reforms within traditional school districts…..
“The foundations, philanthropists, and civic elites that Hill and Jochim call “the reformers” want something. They want dominance over public education. They want to rebrand the word public as something other than the delivery of schooling by a government agency called a school district.
“In order to do this, they need to take away resources controlled by that system: jobs held by teachers, access to school building and property, control over the means of training and hiring.
“Placing school reform in this context invites bare-knuckle politics. And that’s what has resulted.
“It’s not about who has the best idea; it’s about who can gather and sustain the most power. As the authors note at the end of the paper, politics is the strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes time and involves setbacks.
“So, when someone comes to your town with the promise that they can change your failed urban schools, do it quickly, and make an end run around urban politics, don’t believe them.”