A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old
and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel
Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add
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February 11 , 2007
Same As The Old Boss
New Governor Spitzer embraces failure by
promoting “charter” schools
**Update** Mark Mishler of the Albany PTA is circulating this
petition in support of our public schools to be presented to the
Governor. He needs them soon, so download
it as a pdf using your download manager or print
from the web page and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All during the gubernatorial campaign, Eliot
Spitzer was coy and unspecific. No one could get him to comment
on the subject of how former Governor George Pataki’s so-called “charter” schools
are impoverishing upstate New York’s local school districts
and ripping off taxpayers.
This alarmed a lot of people, including myself. Those who are informed
about the subject know that transforming our neglected public schools
by privatizing them into profit mills is a corrupt and idiotic plan.
But we were so sick and tired of Pataki’s twelve years of applied
economic ruin that we were willing to overlook this oversight by candidate Spitzer. After
all, the man isn’t perfect.
Governor Eliot Pataki
It looks like Spitzer is much worse than imperfect. He is fatally
flawed. But instead of that spineless wonder Pataki promoting corporate
socialism from the Governor’s office, we now have an iron-willed
enforcer with a national reputation for getting things done. And
it looks like he is every inch a corporate socialist as his predecessor.
Spitzer finally clarified his intentions during a major speech concerning
education on January 29. According to the New York Times:
While the governor’s speech was frequently punctuated by applause,
Mr. Spitzer prompted an audible gasp and some boos from an audience
of professional educators and Education Department staff members
when he also called for an increase in the number of charter schools
allowed under state law, to 250 from 100. “Oh, come on,” Mr.
Spitzer teased the audience.
Not only did Spitzer betray his supporters in this definitive speech,
he mocked them. Spitzer spit on them. But that’s not all. Spitzer
demanded micro-management powers over public schools:
The governor said he would seek new powers for the
Education Department, including the ability to require districts
to dismiss superintendents “after
substantial failure over multiple years” and even to remove
entire school boards that “fail their communities year after
year.”... He said that principals and superintendents would
be graded on new “school leadership report cards” and
that the state should be prepared to close many more failing schools — as
many as 5 percent of all schools statewide — using its existing
Wow. But okay, he is calling for something Pataki consistently failed
to do, provide funding for our public schools. That’s great,
right? But wait a minute, there’s a catch:
He also said that local districts would not have unfettered control
over how they spend the additional aid, but would be required to
choose from a menu of state-approved initiatives, such as reducing
class sizes and increasing the amount of time children spend in school,
either through longer days, longer years, after-school programs or
other changes in scheduling.
In other words, Spitzer wants the Executive Branch of the State
government to seize control of public school districts from local
municipalities. His justification is that so many of our public schools
are struggling and inadequate because of State imposed inequities
in funding. No arguement there.
But there’s a little problem here. Spitzer said not one stinking
word about imposing any standards whatsoever on “charter” schools.
For anyone who has been living in a paper bag the last twelve years, “charter” schools
are corporate run private schools that are funded almost entirely
by local public school taxes. “Charter” schools have
1) To make a profit for the promoters.
2) To undermine and ultimately destroy public education, a prime
tenet of neocon corporate socialist gospel.
3) To further impoverish poor and minority communities, which is
where the promoters exclusively set up their operations.
This last point is the saddest and most frustrating of all. Minority
members of our community have always gotten the least and the worst
in all things, including educational oportunities. Watching some
of my African American neighbors be led into another pit by these
rich white suburbanite scam artists fills me with shame and disgust.
Currently, literally anyone can start a “charter” school.
I’ve been told by a reliable source (a past or perhaps present
employee of the State Education Department who shall remain nameless
and impossible to track down) that during the Pataki administration
various characters would waltz in
and fill out applications to receive “charters,” which
would be granted quickly without any background checks or proof of
business and educational competency.
The turnover among “charter” teachers is terrific because
they are non-union. Their salaried pay is terrible, much less than
their public counterparts. They are required to work overtime without
compensation, typically 60 or 70 hours a week. They are also on call
24 hours a day. No one slaves at a job like that unless they have
I recall hearing former Albany School superintendent Lonnie Palmer
at a public meeting find a silver lining here. “They can’t
keep any of their good teachers,” he said. “So when we’re
hiring, we get to pick and choose from among their best.”
Public schools are required to accept all students in their community,
even convicted felons. They have a strict State mandate to provide
for everybody. Not so “charter” schools. Even though
they are funded by the same taxpayer monies as public schools, they
can choose who they want to “educate.” They get to operate
like private enterprises.
And “charter” schools don’t have to play fair
when calculating test scores. According
to Albany School Board member Judy Doeschatte, “charter” schools regularly eliminate
poorly performing children from their yearly performance reports!
Really. Whenever you hear a “charter” school corporation
like Brighter Choice claim that they are catching up or surpassing
public schools, understand that they are fixing the numbers.
But despite all these unfair advantages, the “charter” schools
still deliver lower test scores than public schools. Even after they
cook the books. Could this, perhaps, be an indication that private
profit making school corporations feeding at the public trough are
inherently inferior to public schools?
If a “charter” school can’t find enough kids locally
to pack their profit mills, as often happens, they can import kids
from other municipalities, even from very far away. And guess what?
Not only do us local taxpayers have to pay the corporations to “educate” these
imported kids, we also have to subsidize their daily transportation.
“Charter” schools don’t have to report their finances.
That’s because the same financial rules govern them as any
private profit making enterprise. Thus the taxpayers have no idea
how their money is being spent. Surely that is unconstitutional.
The standards for “charter” school buildings are minimal.
They can be constructed on unstable soggy dumps full of explosive
gases. They don’t have to follow anywhere near the rigorous
fire and safety code guidelines that are demanded of public schools.
In effect, they can defy local codes and zoning laws, and the municipalities
have to agree.
Spitzer Takes The Oath On Day One. Just Like Yesterday
Thanks to Governor Spitzer’s commitment to one of the most
serious mistakes of the Pataki administration, we can expect a whole
lot more of these poorly constructed money-mills in Albany. This
means that Albany school taxes will continue to climb into the stratosphere
with nothing in return. Even if voters reject the school budgets,
we are still required to provide raw cash to the “charter” school
The only reasonable conclusion is that Spitzer, despite his reputation
for fighting corruption, is firmly in the pockets of the “charter” school
lobbyists. Spitzer is as corrupt as Pataki.
The imposition of regulations that take all real power away from
locally elected school boards shows that the new Governor despises
democracy, and he despises the taxpayers. It also shows that he believes
that teachers do not deserve a living wage, because these new powers
in effect destroy the bargaining power of unions.
Now, if Spitzer had not been bought and sold by the “charter” school
speculators, he would level the playing field. He would require “charter” schools
to educate all kids in the community, no matter their test scores
or backgrounds. He would threaten to disenfranchise “charter” schools
if they don’t perform. They would have to make their finances
But of course, oversight and sunshine would put these scam operations
out of business almost instantly. The speculators behind “charter” schools
would disappear magically in a puff of smoke.
the song says, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Those
of us who supported Spitzer when he was running for office have been fooled again.
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