Goodbye, “America’s Most Challenging High School.” Hello, Ebonics?

The school rated “America’s Most Challenging High School” by the Washington Post is about to get an extreme makeover.

With the surrounding Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) producing a drop-out rate double that for the rest of California, the American Indian Model Charter School clearly poses an embarrassment to the OUSD’s unionized teachers and entrenched status quo bureaucracy: how to explain away the superior performance of the 1,200 diverse students at American Indian?

Now, an accusation of “mismanagement of public funds” has provided the Board of Education cover to order the schools closed, and to name a new head over all Oakland charter schools.

And who does the Board of Education deem the best qualified to steer the future of this one bright spot in the blight of Oakland education?

Nabeehah Shakir, who is best known for spear-heading the movement to mandate public school instruction in “Ebonics:” so-called “Black English” that even Jesse Jackson condemned.

And thus the lesson to all those thinking the public school system can be “reformed.” It can’t.

30+ years after the report “A Nation at Risk” resulted in the creation of the U.S. Department of Education, we have seen in recent years even left-liberals come out as critics of the public school status quo: “Waiting for Superman.” “Won’t Back Down.” Obama’s call for a “Race to the Top.” Yet despite billions of dollars spent, and countless studies, tests, hearings, speeches, movies, and TV specials all revealing the dysfunctional public school system, the state of public education in America today is only worse. And failed school districts are able to get every bond measure and tax increase “for the children” passed by voters, with children remaining virtually trapped in the school to which they are assigned, no matter how horrible.

Among the most-heralded “reform” has been the Charter School. For twenty years, various states have introduced these public-private hybrids, and private philanthropists have poured millions and billions of dollars into them. Charter Schools operate outside the established bureaucracy, including free from teachers’ unions, and in most locales they produce recognized, superior results, as with American Indian.

However, in practice, Charter Schools simply serve to throw a bone to trouble-makers to keep them occupied, while the vested interests of teachers’ unions and bureaucrats go on about their business: defrauding taxpayers of billions of dollars each year in not educating the nation’s children.

Parents are provided the illusion of choice: if there is a charter or magnet school in their district, they theoretically have an opportunity to save their child from the regular public school—but with capacity for only 4% of students, the supply of Charter School education falls well short of demand.

Philanthropists and activists can be kept busy pouring their money and efforts into Charters, vouchers, and other distractions that support Potemkin villages and relieve the stress on the bureaucracy and union members to actually produce results.

For above all, these public school vested interests are extremely politically powerful and extremely adept at protecting their turf. “House of Cards” gets it about right.

Until Americans get real enough to stop being appeased by “reform” after “reform,” and understand that the only solution is the abolition of the public school monopoly, they will continue to underwrite, voluntarily and involuntarily, teachers and their union leadership, administrators, and bureaucrats—not education.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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