Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education
In Part One, Principal Matt Hornbeck introduces author Noliwe Rooks and explains how charter schools in Maryland, unlike other states, have defied privatization
MATT HORNBECK: I’m Matt Hornbeck and I’m a principal at a charter school, but …
MATT HORNBECK: Yeah, boo. But I am a huge fan of unions and when Corey Gaber, who’s one of the BMORE people, was looking for a place to meet when the Governor’s legislation came out and said that teachers might have to work for operators and couldn’t work for the city, and their living wage, their benefits, and their retirement would be at risk, I gave space at our school for teachers from all over the city to meet and try to think about and organize. I did not stay in the room, they did their own thing.
I just was asked for a moment to give some context on charters in Maryland and the privatization work here in Maryland. I am such a fan now, a new fan, of Dr. Brooks. The book is fantastic, I have it on tape in my car. It’s reading like a wonderful, really urgent history and present solution on what needs to happen. And for me at a school that is very integrated, and I really believe we were the number one performing school on state tests, which boy, are they not the end all be all. National history day projects, and portfolios, and what you might call “real work” or what matters. But we were the number one performing school in grades three through five on reading for African American students in Baltimore City. And our school has been a Title I, school for two and a half decades, but is 40% Latino, 20% African American, and 40% white. As you know if you’re a teacher in Baltimore city, that’s somewhat unusual for schools in Baltimore.
In terms of the context in Maryland for charters, it is widely touted that Maryland has, over and over the mantra is the “worst charter law in the nation.” Jessica Shiller and I think that it is the best charter law in the nation because it requires that schools work with unions and that everyone be a member of a collective bargaining unit which is good for families, good for cities, good for kids, just good all the way around. So, I know that the starting salary for teachers at $50,000 plus really good benefits does not nearly do justice to the work that good teachers do every day, but I also know because of the marketplace that I could probably find people for $35,000 and they would come in droves. So, we do need to be protected from ourselves with workplace rules and guidance because when the hard financial decisions come about, you need to have some basic parameters.
So, in Maryland, I think that the charter law is very unique. I testified against the Governor’s charter bill. And we do have autonomy over our curriculum. We do have autonomy roughly over who we get to hire, last year was a little bit challenging for everyone in the room. But then certainly all of the due process issues when anyone is not performing well applied equally to everyone at our school as they would at a traditional school. Then one massive advantage that I think ought to apply to traditional schools at some point is the rolling over of dollars year-to-year so they don’t evaporate and go back to the district to central. So, there’s roughly $10 million some years, depending on the year you look, that schools don’t spend or gets frozen because of budget reasons and goes back.
In terms of privatization here, we’ve played around with Edison, we’ve played around with Chancellor Beacon, which became Imagine Schools. Their profit is based on, EMOs are based on 500 students in a school, in a Title I school, that gets roughly $500,000 in Title I money. They can produce between $500,000 and $800,000 a year for their shareholders if they’re running it at that level. So, they need scale, and it’s a real challenge because certainly, and Dr. Rooks I’m sure will talk a little bit more this, there is no better results with these schools than there are with traditional schools. In case you don’t already know, and I’m not just talking to my audience ’cause it’s the truth but the teacher is the whole game. So having talented, well compensated, supported people in the classroom is the entire game.
Thanks to all of the people who are teachers and who, our day starts a lot earlier than 9:00 AM at the water cooler and I really appreciate everyone coming out tonight. Thank you Dr. Rooks for everything and get her book.