Dark money in the Holy City
I wrote about school privatization for Diane Ravitch's blog
The education writer Diane Ravitch asked me to write a history of school privatization efforts in the Charleston County School District. I used to be the education reporter at the newspaper in town, so I dove into the archives and pulled together a piece that ran on Diane’s blog today. The title is “Dark Money in the Holy City: A Short History of School Privatization in Charleston, South Carolina.”
You can go read it on Diane’s blog. In the newsletter today, I thought I would explain some of the context. The Charleston County School Board is preparing to vote Monday, Jan. 10, on a proposal called “Reimagine Schools” that would affect 23 predominantly Black schools in the district, potentially turning them over to management by an unnamed private third party.
Charleston friends: You can read the proposal here if you like. My friend the educator Anjene Davis also helped put together a presentation for parents about it; the video is archived on Facebook via the Lowcountry Black Parents Association. I think (I hope) that this story is also of interest to anyone struggling with the influence of dark money and the privatization lobby in their schools. Charleston County’s story is not unique in those respects.
I am not saying, and Anjene is not saying, that our schools should stay the way they are. Charleston County Schools are deeply segregated and profoundly unequal, a microcosm of the inequities in our state at large. A common response to criticism in the school privatization PR world is that stubborn teachers and/or teachers’ unions just want things to stay the same — shortsighted activists are defending “the broken status quo,” they’ll say.
But I think Anjene put it best when he said that change should happen “with the community, not to it.” This proposal, like many before it, was drafted without consulting the parents, teachers, and students who would be affected. It came from moneyed interests outside the school. A joint letter from the faculty at Burke High School, one of the targeted schools, struck a similar note:
"Burke has frequently been the object of experimentation and action from above. We ask that change begins from below."
I don’t think that’s too much to ask.