Sunday, November 9, 2014

CCSS & Charters: The Love Story Ends

The Ed Reform movement has always been a marriage of different groups whose interests and goals sometimes aligned, and sometimes did not. The Systems Guys, the Data Overlords, the Common Core Corporate Hustlers, the Charter Privateers, the Social Engineers-- they agree on some things (we need to replace variable costly teachers with low-cost uniform widgets), but there are cracks in the alliance, and one seems to be turning into a fissure.

The Common Core Hustlers are being dumped by the Charter Privateers. It's not an obvious break-up-- the privateers haven't texted the Core backers to say, "Hey, we need to talk." It's the slow, soft drop. The unreturned phone calls. The unwillingness to even say the name. Not even making eye contact when they show up at the same party. It's awkward. It's painful.

It wasn't always like this. Charters and the Core were a match made in heaven. To spur financing and enrollment, the Charter forces needed a way to "prove" that public schools suck, and that meant finding a yardstick with which public schools could be measured and found failing. That meant some sort of standardized test, and that meant something to test them on. So, Common Core. The Core and the Tests (from which it could not, must not, be separated) would be the smoking gun, the proof that public schools were failing and that only privatizing schools would save Our Nation's Youth.

The corporate folks liked it because it was another opportunity for market growth. The fake liberals liked it because it could be packaged as a way to bring equity to the poor. The fake conservatives liked it because it could be packaged as a way to use market forces to get those slacker poor folks into line.The Core and Charter really got each other. They wanted all the same things.

But soon, the love affair between charters and the Core started to show strain. The Core would show up late at night, smelling like Big Government. And while everybody's friends liked the Core when it first started coming around, as they got to know it, they started whispering behind its back that it was kind of an asshole. Pretty soon, old friends like Bobby Jindal were calling the Core out in public. And when election season came, they weren't invited to the same parties together any more. Jeb Bush had been the Core's oldest and best friend, and even he had a huge party where Charters were held up for praise and applause and the Core wasn't even mentioned.

There was no longer any denying it. When Charter walked into the cafeteria, instead of sitting down with the Core and telling friends, "You should come sit with the Core. It's cool" instead Charter would sit on the other side of the room and say, "You don't want to sit at that table with that thing."

Once the Core had been a marketing point. Public schools were bad news because they couldn't do Common Core well enough. Now public schools are bad news because they are trying to do Common Core well enough. We used to market charters as a way to run toward the Core; now we market them as a way to run away from it.

None of the reformsters who now disown Common Core are dropping any other part of the reformster agenda, especially not privatization.

And so in Connecticut, we have Dannel Malloy who started running away from the Core way back in April, follows up re-election by jumping right back on the charter train. Next stop-- Fully Privatized School Systemville. Andrew Cuomo's stated position on the public school system and the teachers who work there can now be summarized as "Burn them. Burn them all with fire." But he's expressed a desire to toss Common Core on there as well. From Memphis to Cleveland to Minneapolis, it's full speed ahead on privatizing school systems, but Common Core has vanished from the vocabulary, becoming the Chuck Cunningham of the reform movement.

In any divorce, it's a challenge to see who gets custody of which friends. This has proven awkward for fake liberals, who thought they had latched onto a pan-partisan initiative and now find themselves alone at Common Core parties. This is partly their own fault for trying to take credit for CCSS; now the fake conservatives have let them have it.It is only going to get worse. Ted Cruz is an opportunistic putz, but not since Joe McCarthy told the Wheeling Republican Women's Club that he had there in his pocket a paper with a list of prominent state department commies has a politician displayed such a keen sense of the direction of the wind. His intent to "repeal" Common Core is a joke, but it is also writing on the wall. The Core is no longer a bipartisan drive for high standards, but one of those Big Gummint programs.

Meanwhile, in the more rational corner of the GOP, newly minted Senator Lamar Alexander is ready to tackle the long-overdue reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind). That would be the simplest, most direct pin with which to pop the Race to the Top bubble, and while states can go ahead with charter privatization whether there's RttT or not, it's the Obama administrations waiver-based extortion that has propped up CCSS all along. In the meantime, when even Arne Duncan has shown the sense to let go at least the name of Common Core, national teachers unions still grapple that radioactive mess to heart with hoops of steel.

For people in the Resistance, working to preserve and protect the promise of public education in this country, what this divorce means is that if you like battle metaphors, this battle will henceforth be fought on multiple fronts. Cry out "Common Core is destroying public education" and you may find a charter privateer standing next to you hollering, "Yeah, it sure is!!" The Core and Charters may nod politely to each other when they pass on the street, but the love is gone.


  1. Balance New York, a front group PAC for StudentsFirstNY, backed some anti-Common Core Republicans in State Senate races in New York State with over $14 million - and helped win 6 out of 7 those races for the GOP.

    These Republicans are pro-charter and will undoubtedly assist Governor Cuomo in lifting (or eliminating completely) the charter cap in the state.

    It will be interesting to see what they do about Common Core - which Cuomo still supports, not withstanding his running away from it in his campaign ads - and the EngageNY crap NYSED is pushing.

    Will they join other Republicans in renewed efforts to end CCSS as a state mandate?

    If so, the Republican State Senate majority Cuomo wanted so he could push his corporate-friendly policies will make him very, very sad on at least the CCSS front.

    I for one am happy to join with these Republicans to end Common Core in NY while fighting them when they try and help Cuomo raise or eliminate the charter cap.

    As you note, Peter, it's getting complicated out there in the ed deform battles - but so long as we're aware of where the fault lines are, we can use them to our advantage too.

  2. I, for one, plan on bending the ear of my new NYS Republican senator, and remind him of protests going on against opening a charter in nearby Peekskill, a week or so before the election. It is good to see a rift between Common Core and Charter supporters. I think the next break will come when the Stop Common Core supporters (NY) recently elected realize that the testing has to go too.

  3. Another education fad falls by the wayside. Love the high school love affair metaphor.