Yesterday, Florida’s “Parent Trigger Bill” failed in the Senate with a 20-20 tie. Supporters would have you believe that this bill was designed to give parents greater voice in the education of their children. Really, it’s another step in the direction of privatizing our public schools and creating an even larger chasm between rich and poor. Today, the Florida Legislature is voting on a Charter School bill that, if passed, will increase the influence of private charter and virtual school companies. Not surprisingly, several legislators are poised for financial gain should this bill pass. Financial gain for legislators, or doing what’s right for kids? That’s a rhetorical question.
Using scare tactics and lies to portray our public schools and teachers as “failing” is nothing new. In a recent blog post, David Berliner discussed how the past three decades are fraught with this approach. Berliner suggests that we have an opportunity gap in the United States, and states, “Frankly, it looks to me like our nation is more at risk from critics like these than it is from the hard-working teachers and administrators trying to help poor kids and their families get ahead in a nation that is increasingly stacking the deck against the poor.”
We have a poverty problem.
Our schools and teachers are not failing. From the day they are conceived, poor children have fewer educational opportunities than rich children. In his recent post, Sean Reardon writes, “It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.”
Our public schools are not to blame for the educational disparities critics thrash them for on a regular basis. Rather than focusing on so called “school reform” — which only serves to make the rich richer — we need to focus on the actual issue. Poverty.