As a former inner city charter school teacher, turned small-town-rural public school teacher (and Michigan resident) I have had a lot of emotions running through my head in the last month about the nomination and eventual historic confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education.
You see, when I first started working in the charter school system I thought it was great. I jumped right on the school of choice, charter school train and didn’t understand why so many were against it. I was told the lie that every charter school teacher and parent is told that “charter schools have more freedom and flexibility for teaching and learning, that you can’t get in public schools” (and I believed it).
It wasn’t until about 6 months in that viewpoint started crumbling, and within a year I would have done anything to get out. Now that I am blessed to be a public school employee, that school of choice, charter school train has completely derailed.
Here are my issues Mrs. DeVos,
- Education is NOT a business. It boggled my mind and broke my heart when I went to corporate training for the charter school company I was working for, and was made aware that the “top performing” schools within the company received the newest and best resources and technology. A teacher from a near “top performing” school complained that she only had 10 laptops in her room. When my school, no where near the top, had two outdated computers per classroom that only worked some of the time.
- “Freedom and Flexibility.” Remember that “charter schools have more freedom and flexibility” bit? Let me reiterate that it is a lie. As a charter school employee I was forced to limit each unit to strictly 3 weeks (including pre-assessment and post-assessment time). What happened if my students hadn’t reached proficiency or mastery? It didn’t matter, I still had to move on and assess in the three week window, and show my data. As a charter school teacher, I was also required to hand over all of my lesson plans weekly to prove I was staying on this three week cycle. Since I have started working in the public school system I have never had so much freedom of how I teach my students. My administration trusts me, and I no longer live under micromanagement.
- Quality. Every student should be able to receive a quality education, isn’t that the main point? In the charter schools I have been in that has not been the case. A quality education can not take place when you have transient teaching staff that leaves after a year (or less) because they are overworked and underappreciated, and especially when you can’t fill those gaps when teachers leave. Or when you have administration that is not qualified to do their job, much like you Mrs. DeVos. And a quality education cannot take place when you do not have the resources or physical space.
- Accountability. This is one of your main sticking points Mrs. DeVos, though you can’t even explain it when questioned. What does charter school accountability even look like? Because in Michigan, the state we both live and work in, I don’t see it.
- Rivalries. Since the creation of the charter school system it has been played up as a “free public school option” other than students assigned local public school districts. I’m not saying choice shouldn’t be an option, but seeing the impact this has had on public schools in Michigan is horrible. Just look at a city like Detroit, that now has a crumbling public school system and has you, Mrs. DeVos, written all over the charter school system that broke it. The only schools that should be rivalries are the neighboring towns that you always want to beat in football or basketball on a friday night, not steal their students and funding.
There is so much I wish I could put into words. But I will just leave it at that as a teacher that knows both sides, charter schools are not the answer, and I will not stop fighting for quality and equal education for my students.
I wish you the best Mrs. DeVos, because after all why would I want some one to fail. But just so you know, you have one huge uphill battle to fight with the former charter school teachers, that know what charter schools do, and the public school teachers that will fight for what is right.
I will leave you with the two quotes that have been sticking with me throughout this:
Never forget that the real power of education doesn’t come from a corner office. It doesn’t come from a political office. It comes from the daily interactions teachers have with their students, from what kids are learning every day. -unknown.
You have the most important job of anyone today. Our kids need you to advocate for their futures. -George Lucas.
it all stacks up.