Principles That Unite Us: Democratic Ownership of Our Schools

Our ongoing campaign to reclaim the promise of public schools, launched with a National Day of Action on December 9, draws inspiration from a set of principles adopted by a broad coalition of educators, parents, students, and community stakeholders. We presented the introduction to these Principles That Unite Us in the last Hotline. Today’s Hotline lays out the next part of the Principles, addressing the democratic ownership of our schools:

Public schools are public institutions.

Our school districts should be committed to providing all children with the opportunity to attend a quality public school in their community. The corporate model of school reform seeks to turn public schools over to private managers and encourages competition—as opposed to collaboration—between schools and teachers. These strategies take away the public’s right to have a voice in their schools, and inherently create winners and losers among both schools and students. Our most vulnerable children become collateral damage in these reforms. We will not accept that.

  • A public school system serves all students—those with special needs or disabilities, English language learners, homeless kids and troubled children. Creating schools that keep or push these students out in the name of efficiency or higher achievement for a few is not education reform but a return to segregation and inequality.
  • We oppose the creation of charter schools for the purpose of privatization. Charter schools can serve as incubators of innovation, but they must be fully accountable to the public, part of a unified educational system, and regulated and funded for equity and accessibility.
  • School closures have become a strategy to transfer students from public to privately operated schools. No research has shown that the switch from public to private management of schools improves student learning.
  • Public education should not be a source of profit.

Our voices matter.

Those closest to the education process—teachers, administrators, school staff, students and their parents and communities—must have a voice in education policy and practice. Our schools and districts should be guided by them, not by corporate executives, entrepreneurs or philanthropists. Top-down interventions rarely address the real needs of schools or students.

  • We oppose mayoral control and state takeovers of our school districts. Experience has taught us that these takeovers, usually justified with words like ‘urgent’ and ‘crisis,’ too often simply spell the end of democratic ownership of our schools.
  • Our districts and our schools should be governed with multiple structures for genuine input and decision making by parents, educators and students.
  • We reject disingenuous strategies—like ‘parent trigger’ laws and community hearings offered only after decisions have been made by others—that put profits before students and alienate communities from their neighborhood schools.