Education Guru Diane Ravitch on Bruce Rauner: ‘A Terrible Idea’

Sep 25, 2014 by

There’s no one I’ve interviewed on the subject of Bruce Rauner—well, maybe Karen Lewis, who called him a “menace to society”—who expressed more disdain for the Republican candidate for Illinois governor than Diane Ravitch. Ravitch, 76, a research professor of education and education historian at NYU, is arguably the country’s foremost left-leaning education expert. She gave me an interview last May from her bed at a rehab center—recuperating from knee replacement surgery—for my profile of the private equity multimillionaire and devoted education reformer who has an admirable record of pouring his own money into both CPS schools and charter schools.

Ravitch described for me her trip to Chicago in 2011 to receive the Kohl Education Award, given annually by philanthropist Delores Kohl to honor outstanding teachers. That evening, Kohl hosted a small dinner at the Chicago Club. There were two tables of eight, and at one of them Rauner and Ravitch were seated across the table from each other. “We were dominating the conversation,” Ravitch told me, “debating charters.”

The conversation, necessarily loud because they weren’t seated next to each other, went as follows (Ravitch admits she’s paraphrasing because she didn’t tape the back and forth):

Ravitch: It doesn’t seem fair that charters can exclude students with disabilities. That leaves them to public schools.

Rauner: That’s no problem for us. Kids who don’t speak English, we don’t have to take them.

Ravitch: That’s not fair.

Rauner: What’s wrong with not taking kids? We don’t need kids whose families are not highly motivated. That’s our choice.

(When asked about the dinner, the Rauner campaign did not address the exchange but said in an emailed statement, “The Rauners’ greatest passion is education, and they have spent years trying to improve educational outcomes for students by supporting charter, choice, and traditional public schools.”)

via Education Guru Diane Ravitch on Bruce Rauner: ‘A Terrible Idea’ | Chicago magazine | Felsenthal Files September 2014.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Teacher with a Brain

    I know I have said it before, and I will do so again.

    Charter schools are not public schools. The very idea that privately operated, not-for-profit or for-profit corporations are given public tax $$$ to operate schools that are not required to conform 100% to education code, and further to then be held up (in some instances) as being saviors to children, as being superior, better, etc. is egregious.

    While nonpublic charters may not have the full leeway a totally private school may have to hand select their students based upon their specific criteria, there are a half dozen ways they can structure their admittance/retention/dismissal policies to weed out the majority of the students/families they do not wish to enroll and educate.

    Genuine public schools are not afforded any of these loopholes and are mandated to take and try to educate everyone, however if/when we do not achieve the results a lauded charter school may boast, we are criticized.

    Meanwhile, a personal friend who teaches in a charter high school that was featured in “Waiting for Superman,” admitted to me that most of the special education students initially admitted to his high school as 9th graders ultimately return to their public high school as they do not make it in the mandated college prep curriculum. The truth, most do not make it in our college prep curriculum at my large, suburban public high school, but which school is going to take the flak for it, the one they graduate from or the one that counseled them to return to their neighborhood school?

    Also, demographically, based upon data on the California Department of Instruction website, this charter school has:
    1) a significantly smaller % of students receiving free/reduced lunch
    2) a significantly smaller % of students who are English Language Learners
    3) a significantly smaller % of students identified as special ed.

    This school touts that it serves low SES, higher need students and gets them ready for college, however the data actually paints a different picture.

    So, perhaps if we would grant our public school districts more freedom from oppressive ed code and special education mandates, we could craft programs that would serve the needs of more students. Indeed, we are in an era where the very opposite is being imposed on us. Just watch our drop out rate soar as we require every single student to graduate 4 year university ready from our alternative high school to our adult school program.

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