Sue Altman: The Critics of Opt Out Are Wrong

Mother Crusader opened her blog to this post by Sue Altman, who received a dual degree at the University of Oxford in International and Comparative Education and an MBA. In this post, she explains why critics of Opt Out are wrong, and what mechanisms are needed for Opt Out to succeed. She points out that the very mechanisms needed for success have been stripped away in many districts that serve predominantly African American and Hispanic students.

Privatizers (aka reformers) have scoffed at the Opt Out movement as a phenomenon of privileged white suburban moms, presumably pampering their children.

She writes:

For an opt-out movement to catch on, certain criteria must be in place— things like democratically elected school boards, open-minded and respectful superintendents, and teachers with job security. But, by design, these things have been removed, systematically, from urban communities, so that policies can be put in place that community members (mostly African-American or Hispanic) have no say in.

She has studied the successful Opt Out movement in New York, and the post explains how each one of these elements is crucial for the parents to participate in opting out. Where participation is low, it is usually because these ingredients (a democratically elected school board, a respectful superintendent, and teachers with job security) either don’t exist or have been systematically removed. The goal of the privatizers for the past decade has been to replace democratically elected school boards with mayoral or state control and to remove any job security from teachers. This stifles democratic dissent and reduces protests, which is why the students in Newark turned to the streets and to sit-ins to be heard since no one in power was listening. As Altman points out, black and Hispanic communities have been the targets of policies meant to silence their voices. This also discourages such bold actions as opting out.

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