At a time when parents are being encouraged to rip their children away from screens and out into the fresh air, when hands-on learning is making a comeback, and teachers are asked to diversify their classrooms to meet the needs of their students beyond “chalk and talk” or rote learning, why would we want a man like Bill Gates, who has a proven track record of pouring millions of dollars into failed educational “reform” programs and initiatives, to have anything to do with “re-imagining” education?
Our children are not widgets, and the so-called “factory model” of schooling bit the dust long ago. Despite the arrogant assertions of such self-appointed education experts as Gates, or Michael Bloomberg, a dangerous proponent of charter schools now and as mayor of New York City, or the top down management style CEOs of charter school franchises, such as Geoffrey Canada Harlem Children’s Zone and Eva Moskowitz Success Academy (notorious for flushing out special needs students, dressed up versions of private/parochial schools without the religious affiliations, siphoning off good students and public finds to the detriment of local public schools,) the data has shown that erratically throwing good money at unproven programs, which disproportionately affect our most vulnerable and least powerful families and communities, is not the way to go.
The global COVID-19 pandemic could be a perfect storm for another Katrina/NOLA-style disemboweling of public schools and teacher unions, except on a national scale. I don’t believe this will happen for several reasons. Teachers unions across the country have found their voices and have demonstrated they are willing and able to push back against the right wing agenda of de-funding and closing public schools in favor of vouchers, charters and privatization.
Charters have time and again been found derelict in their business models and tons of public funds for schools have been wasted and literally stolen by nefarious individuals who wound up facing criminal charges and worse. Children in the least served and most at risk communities have been the collateral damage from this “experiment” in “reform” which lined the pockets of wealthy investors as these schools tanked, one by one.
It’s amazing that after such a track record any government official would consider bringing in the private sector especially at a time when our nation is at the mercy of an unpredictable and nearly unmanageable health crisis.
A global pandemic is a poor excuse for engaging in transactional shenanigans with undertaxed oligarchs.
There is ample proof that Bill Gates while he, and other billionaires, may have good intentions, and a never ending slew of money to spend, should not be put at the helm of “reimagining” education, not now, not ever.
-Claudia F. Giordano
UFT Solidarity Caucus