You may well have seen some variation on this poster: A forlorn dog looks out at you, cute enough to trigger an insulin attack, sad enough to make your roof leak. The text tells you that he is a "forever" dog, not an "until" job. If you want to adopt him, adopt him forever, not until you get bored or get a baby or move or don't have the time to bother. It's a commitment. If you're gong to take him home, take him home forever.
I've seen plenty of these posters (and we have a forever dog of our own).
This morning I came across this piece on Buzzfeed, of all places, talking about the beginning of the end for charter profiteers in general, and K12 in particular. It reminded me of just how many charter schools have picked up and checked out (for just one example, seventeen in Columbus last year). And it reminded me of one more quality that distinguishes between modern profiteering charter schools and true public schools.
Public schools are forever schools, not until schools.
Public schools do not serve students until the financial returns get too low.
Public schools do not serve students until those students turn out to be too challenging.
Public schools do not serve students until they can't get away with lying about staff qualifications.
Public schools do not serve students until the students reveal learning disabilities.
Public schools do not serve students until the market presents a better investment opportunity.
Public schools do not serve students until the sponsoring corporation dissolves itself and disappears.
Public schools do not serve students until they can't get sweetheart deals from politicians any more.
Public schools do not serve students until they decide to just close up overnight with no notice.
Public schools do not serve students until the people running them feel like doing something else instead.
Public schools do not serve students until those students have to be pushed out for scoring too low on The Test.
A public school is a commitment. It's a community promising, "We will build this place to help our children learn and grow, and we will never, ever, close it for capricious or self-serving reasons. Families may come and go. Businesses may rise and fall. But when you come back here in a generation or two or three, you will find this school still standing."
It is true that forever schools don't really last forever (and our dog is not immortal, either). But the commitment is a forever commitment, a commitment that goes beyond individual staff, leaders, community members. The commitment is the community, past, present and future saying to their children and their children's children, "We will be right here, just as long as children need a safe place to learn and grow."
The modern profiteering charters make no such commitment. "We'll be right here," they say, "just as long as it serves our purposes."
There are cities, increasing in number, where leaders have trampled on the promise of public schools. Shame on those leaders, and shame on our national leaders who have encouraged the destruction of the public school promise. Wouldn't it be interesting if charter school companies had to sign contracts that, say, bound them to keeping a school open for ten, fifteen, twenty years whether they were making money or not. Wouldn't it be interesting if, in places like New Orleans, politicians had said, "You can open a charter school to replace the public school that used to be here, but you can't ever close it until we say you can. You must guarantee to provide educational services to the children of New Orleans as long as there are children in New Orleans." Public schools should be as permanent as any public institution can be. It is a huge ripoff to replace them with temporary schools having no more aspiration to permanence than the pop-up tent store selling Fourth of July fireworks.
In the meantime, the modern profiteering charters are just the educational version of the people who bring home puppies and a year later have taken them to the pound or abandoned them in the country or simply neglected them to death.
All pets should be forever pets. And all schools should be forever schools.
Originally posted at Curmudgucation.