Renee Mitchell on Van Brunt: We Love You Already! (Shut Up Terry!)

by Steve, July 9th, 2007

Renee Mitchell’s column in thee O today bubbles over with enthusiasm for new Portland Schools Foundation executive director Connie Van Brunt.

Mitchell mentions that “blogger Terry Olson began an online debate about whether Van Brunt—described as a ‘high powered charter school proponent’—was the right fit,” and reprints Van Brunt’s comment from that blog to the effect that Terry‘s got it all wrong. Mitchell completely fails to check up on what Terry was saying—Van Brunt is a big-time charter schools advocate; she was chief education officer at the Chicago Charter School Foundation—and breezes through the rest of her hagiography of Van Brunt without giving his valid concerns another thought.

This is what irks me about public schools politics in Portland. Everybody wants to talk about personalities; nobody wants to talk about policy. This is very convenient for those with a corporate schools agenda, since they can bring in these smiling faces who spew platitudes about closing the achievement gap and supporting our public schools while peddling policy that hurts students, teachers… and neighborhood public schools. Vicki Phillips got a pass on this for three years, and now we’ve got Renee Mitchell greasing the skids for Van Brunt.

I don’t know if Mitchell is a stooge for this agenda, or if she’s just fooled by the happy talk. But make no mistake, what the Portland Schools Foundation is pushing is not in your interest if you want strong neighborhood public schools in Portland.

Welcome to Portland, Connie.

12 Responses to “Renee Mitchell on Van Brunt: We Love You Already! (Shut Up Terry!)”

  1. Comment from dickey45:

    I’m not seeing the problem with charters. They don’t necessarily have to be linked with corporations. If the charter is not linked with a corporation, is it still bad? Is Arthur Academy bad? Their kids pass state test and they make great strides with many lower income kids.

  2. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    The problem with charters is that typically they pull the committed parents away from their neighborhood schools. The neighborhood schools get starved out as a result. And the charters cause this whole trip of pitting parents against each other — you know, “My kids *deserve* art, that’s why we’re at a charter school.” Well, all kids deserve art, music and PE, but especially the low-income kids who may not get those opportunities at home. And they’re the kids most likely to stay at their (starved out) neighborhood schools.

    Plus, teachers at charter schools are non-union — thus they do not get the monies they deserve, or the health benefits or pension plans.

    Charter schools are union-busters. I just wrote a huge post related to all this, if anyone’s looking for a long read.

  3. Comment from Himself:

    Teachers at charter schools are not only non-union, half of them aren’t even required by state law to be certified.

    Charter schools don’t have to be corporate sponsored to fall under what I call the “corporate schools agenda”. This is the idea that schools should operate in a “free market” and compete for students and funding. This agenda is pushed by national foundations like Gates and Broad, and locally by the Portland Schools Foundation.

    It also happens to be opposed by actual educators and those with real experience and success in education reform.

    This corporate mentality is anti-tax, anti-teacher, anti-student, and anti-neighborhood school. Your charter school may be just fine and dandy, and probably doesn’t feel corporate at all. But the overarching policies pushed by people like Van Brunt lead ultimately to the commodification of human life and the further demise of strong neighborhood schools.

  4. Comment from becky:

    and if you look at the experience in Texas (land of the great education miracle!) you’ll find rampant CHEATING on state mandated tests at charter schools! (The Dallas Morning news reported on this last month.)

  5. Comment from Zarwen:

    Another interesting wrinkle in all this is that, when VP unilaterally enacted a “policy” that all PPS elementary and K-8 schools must number 400-600, charter schools were exempted. WHY? To give the “committed parents” someplace to flee their now-overcrowded neighborhood schools? We chose a magnet school for our son, partially because our neigborhood school was already overcrowded; over 25% of the students are transfers-in from other neighborhoods. Then our magnet school was ordered to increase enrollment. Looks like charter is the only option left for families who want small schools for their children!

  6. Comment from megs:

    The only option if you want a school with anything other than a barebones program too. This is a sure way to kill our public schools. Naughty naughty naughty on you for going to charter school.

  7. Comment from dickey45:

    Some good points, I’ll admit: pitting parents against each other, charters are not under the same size requirements or teacher licensure requirements.

    That said, Arthur Academy is considering going union, all their teachers are certified, and they get absolutely no funding for building space so why would they be under the same restrictions? Oh and Arthur Academy serves many underpriviledged (see Woodburn) and is a *tradtional* program, not a “magnet” type of program.

    My son does not go to a charter as we do not have one in my city. Instead, I fight the system for him to receive a free and appropriate education. At this time, I spend more time teaching math and reading in a scientifically validated way using scientifically validated curriculum than the public school. It is unfortunate, really.

  8. Comment from Himself:

    Arthur Academy is considering going union…

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Will they honor the terms of the PPS contract, or negotiate their own?

    …all their teachers are certified…

    Maybe now (not sure; guess I’ll take your word for it), but not necessarily in the future. From the job description for teachers on their Web site: “While an Oregon Teaching License is preferable, related experience and expertise may be considered as a substitute for certification.”

    Arthur Academy serves many underpriviledged…

    Serving underprivileged students is one of the big selling points of charters. (See my post today about the Gates grant to an LA charter organization.)

    But why is it that we can’t serve these children with traditional neighborhood public schools? Why the need for the middle men? From your description, it sounds like Arthur wants to be just like a good, neighborhood public school. Why don’t we work it so that everybody in the district can have this, without having to go to a charter school?

    And what about serving special-needs kids in charter schools? I know, special ed funding has been cut to the bone in PPS, so it’s tough to get services in the neighborhood schools too. But at least there’s something there (even if PPS will do everything imaginable to thwart your efforts to get services). It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a small charter school to absorb the costs of, say, a full-time aid for one student. It’s much easier to spread these costs across the whole district.

    Which is what this ultimately comes down to: Are we all in this together, or are we each just going to do whatever we can to better our own lot? I’ve said it many times before. Humankind has achieved greatness with collective effort aimed at mutual betterment of society. Civilization has stumbled when we’ve turned in the other direction.

  9. Comment from Terry:

    The bigger issue with the Arthur Academies (there’s more than one) is it’s curriculum — it’s scripted. They use a U of O developed program called Direct Instruction. Most teachers (including me) hate it.

    Anyway awhile back I wrote a a post abut it. You might find it interesting.

  10. Comment from Terry:

    Oops. The post URL didn’t work. Try this:

  11. Comment from Himself:

    The link worked in both for me. :)

    Thanks for this, Terry. As usual, my relatively recent attention to the problems of PPS and the politics and policy of public education is well-informed by you and everybody at NSA.

  12. Comment from Zarwen:

    Megs, you scold me too soon. Just to clarify, we have not sent our son to a charter school–yet. We are still waiting to see how all of VP’s “reforms” shake out and how they will affect the school where he is now.

    Dickey, I must take issue with your use of the term “free education.” I assume you are referring to a tax-funded, as opposed to corporate-funded, education. There is no such thing as a “free education.” Someone, somewhere, always pays.