The Political Struggle Against Charter Schools
Measures Against Teachers Seek Privatization
By Edwin Morales Laboy
Translated from Spanish, Bandera Roja, 31:1, February 2012, pg. 2
If anything positive has happened in recent years in the debate over charter schools, it has been the achievement of getting a growing broader section of Puerto Rico to repudiate this educational model by associating the dismantling of the public system of education to the interests of profit and the looting of school funds. Today, for anyone to say that charter schools are equal to privatization is something that is understood and is taken for granted. However, there are other angles of the charter-privatization offensive that should be put in perspective, in addition to the mercantile/profiteering aspect of the bourgeois motive for this crisis in the education system. Bourgeois sectors, with their charter-school privatization agenda, seek to further control the teaching structures and end all of possibilities of school-based autonomous governance and that could threaten corporate class dominance.
Eliminating tenure, the imposition of a curriculum that is alien to the real needs of the students, the establishment of all powerful school administrations, the evaluation of academic performance based on fraudulent standardized tests and discriminatory selection processes against students with disabilities are examples that reveal how, in addition to the charters profiteering and privatization, the corporate goals include eliminating any iota of democracy, critical thinking and questioning of public order.
As of a decade ago in Puerto Rico, there has been a developing offensive against the teachers and other sectors of the working class to eliminate their rights. In the particular case of the teachers, the elimination of the School-based Organization Committees (COE) as part of the contract negotiation process of the collective contract agreement of the FMPR-Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico in 2007, there were already clear indicators that democratic school based structures for faculty, parents, students and principals were not consistent with the government’s agenda.
These COE school-based structures were nearly instances of worker control where the teachers had an important role in developing their school organization and the allocation of resources at their schools. The autonomy won through years of struggle and crystallized in Law 149 became a threat to the State to the extent that they were losing control of schools.
In that sense, at the heart of the struggle that occurs between teachers against the bosses, the defense of public education is not only a battle rooted in controlling and managing the budget, but the issues of the relationships of power and class struggle play key roles.
Charter schools are a threats to our aspirations for a more just and egalitarian society as well as attempts to guarantee the reproduction of bourgeois ideology and are measures of the class contradictions that are exacerbated with the crisis.
Currently, Puerto Rico is the only place within the United States where the State has failed to install a single charter, due to the relentless struggle that the most advanced in the FMPR teachers’ union have waged over the past years.
Still, the charter threat persists and will require a Herculean effort to keep this project from gaining a foothold in the Puerto Rico. The period ahead will bring more and greater social conflicts where the rich continue to try to impose the way out of the crisis and according to their interests. The school is a target in which they seek to passify and control people and it is in the school where we socialists will give them the coup de grace.