Sacramento: poised to become ground zero of privatization
See the report below from Kate Lenox of the Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education, a new affiliate of Parents Across America.
The Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education is a group of parents, teachers, and community members that has been fighting the privatization of public education here in Sacramento for eight years. We formed when the board of Sacramento City Unified School District voted to close Sacramento High School, the second oldest public high school west of the Mississippi, and give it to a charter operator to run.
That charter operator is St. HOPE, an organization formed by former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who is now our mayor and is engaged to Michelle Rhee. We believe that Sacramento is poised to become the ground zero of the privatization movement. Michelle Rhee is setting up her lobbying group Students First here in town. Democrats for Education Reform has set up a chapter here in California with Gloria Romero, failed candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction has the public face of the organization.
The mayor tried to get “ed reform” friendly candidates elected to the school board and failed last November. He did succeed in getting one of the former school board members who turned the school over to him elected to City Council. We believe it’s essential that we link up with the national push back against the so-called “education reform” movement.
Meanwhile, Margaret Fortune, who was Johnson’s petitioner for the Sac High takeover, has made an end run around the local schools boards and gotten the go-ahead from The Sacramento County Office of Education Board of Trustees to set up a chain of charter schools in the county focused on the achievement gap and marketed to African-American students. Given the precarious state of some local school districts’ finances, this could put some over the edge, which is ironic considering that the County Office of Education has financial oversight of the local districts.
Our greatest accomplishment in the past eight years has been to change the election law so that Sacramento City Unified board members are elected by area instead of at large. We now believe we have a board that’s friendly to the idea of returning the Sac High facility to the community and reopening a non-charter high school for our kids. This will likely set off an unpleasant turf war. Kevin Johnson won’t hesitate to take this battle to a national arena.
We hope to enlist true education reformers and supporters of public education in this effort.