News media sold it as a "massive rally for their charter schools." Evil Mayor Bill de Blasio was selling out poor kids in Harlem! Teacher and student alike rushed to Albany, where Governor Andrew Cuomo soothed their ruffled feathers and pledged his undying support. Here's the local CBS coverage:
Poke around a little under the surface, though, and another story emerges, as The Nation reports:
But it wasn’t merely a field trip; the rally was a political event, in protest of de Blasio’s decision not to approve plans for three Success Academies to co-locate with traditional public schools, and more broadly his proposal to charge rent to charters occupying city school buildings. (The mayor approved forty-five other co-location proposals, five of them put forward by Success Academy.) Moskowitz has been the most vocal opponent of the new mayor’s education policies, though few have been enacted. As the debate intensifies, staff and students at Success Academy are being increasingly drawn into the political battle—or pushed into it, according to several employees who spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity.
“I don’t want to say it’s hostile, or abusive, but definitely I feel that coercive measures are taken,” said a staff member who works in the school’s administration. “The rally really demonstrated this lack of boundaries.”
The teachers and staffers who spoke to The Nation said that although they were never told they would lose their jobs if they did not attend the rally, they didn’t think they had much choice and were afraid to ask for an exception. “An option was not presented. The schools assigned everyone with a job, so you were either going to be an instructional coach or a bus captain,” one teacher explained. “They weren’t really asking us if that’s what we wanted to do. They were telling us that that’s what we were going to do instead of teaching for the day.” Many charter schools like Success are nonunionized, and celebrate the fact that they can fire teachers more easily than schools with teachers’ unions can; many charter teachers have described a culture of fear resulting from job insecurity.
This is what happens when there isn't anyone standing for teachers, or students for that matter. They get used as political pawns in a big privatization game. The students were co-opted, too. Because there was no staff at the charter schools the day of the rally, parents really had no option but to go ahead and send their kids if they had no childcare options. In one teacher's words, "It felt a little exploitive."
A little? Bill de Blasio is fighting a big battle here, but it's one that will matter to every school district in the country. Privateers are gearing up to break teachers' unions via the courts and the public square because the prize is worth it. Profits. Lots of profits. Education? Meh, that won't matter so much once they accomplish their goal.