Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Tote, A Charter Rally and A Guiding Principle

My grandmother is 84 years old. She likes to go the dollar store and buy little things here and there for the people she knows. She bought me this tote last winter from her local Dollar Tree. She saw that it said "teacher" and I'm sure she thought it looked nice so she decided to pick one up. The Dollar Tree is one of those companies that is willing to buy retail junk that did not exactly fly off the shelves at other places, then sell it to customers at the grand old price of a dollar. She knows I don't use tote bags but, for a dollar, this 100% canvas model seemed to be quite a deal to my grandmother.

I immediately recognized the slogan on the front of the bag. It is the name for one of the many Charter School rallies that occur in the city every Fall and Winter. This particular rally was hosted by a pro charter group called Families for Excellent Schools. The rally took place in Folly Square back in October of 2015 and asked teachers to stand for school equality. It happened on a Wednesday. I think I missed it. I think it was because I, along with the rest of the NYCDoE was probably bringing school equality where it counts on a Wednesday -in school- but I could be wrong -and I digress.

The next day, The New York Daily News ran a piece about the rally entitled "1,000 NYC charter school teachers to rally for educational equality".

"Team Possible" over at Families For Excellent Schools must have ordered more than 1,000 totes, because this one found its way to a shelf in a Dollar Tree store out in suburban New York.

Charters come under attack all the time for bringing market-based values to the public education world. I've never shared in the attacks, because I think there are good charters out there, but I have always felt cautious whenever I saw the guiding principles of American Capitalism creeping their way into the last great public trust -education- there is. There are highly paid charter leaders and for-profit charter leaders in the world. There are even charter leaders who own the buildings that are rented to charter schools, thus making a sizable profit for themselves. Though not all bad, charters are not all good either and common sense leads anyone to be a bit cautious.

There is no doubt that Families for Excellent Schools purchased these totes for a rally back on 10/21/2015. Heck, the name of the rally is right there on the tote! I'm sure some were distributed to participants. But the guiding for-profit principles are pretty obvious when you realize that the tote bags that weren't' distributed for free at the rally, and weren't given out to students or to parents or even to passers by on the street, were actually sold to an after market retailer, who, in-turn sold them for a profit.

It looks like someone in the organization devoted time and resources away from "possible" and toward reaching out to companies to hock some wares in an attempt to recoup monies spent for a public relations event. Or maybe not. Perhaps someone allowed to happen. This, frankly, is much the same to me but some folks would find that different.

Meanwhile, "Why", critics would ask, "might groups like Families for Excellent Schools, the folks who sold us on possible, not be the best fit for education?" It may be because their mindset, which is focused on results and on bottom line, leads them to sell their junk to a dollar store when they can't get enough people show up at a rally.