Former Board of Education candidate Nisha Simama, who lost handily in the recent election to incumbent Courtney English by a 23 point margin (61-38%) announced yesterday that she is starting an education blog titled Nisha Simama – on education renewal. As she notes in her blog Bio,
“In 2013 she made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Atlanta Board of Education where she ran into opposition from those who support privatization and corporatization of public education.”
Clearly, she has adopted the national mantra espoused by anti-charter school organizations and this could be an interesting perspective from an educator who now is working at the Paideia School, a private school in Atlanta that “was founded in 1971 by parents who wanted an individualized, creative, and intellectually challenging education for their children.”
Per her press release, the blog’s
…purpose is to “be a progressive and independent voice for those who have been silenced, rendered unimportant or invisible in educational ‘reform’ efforts underway in the metropolitan Atlanta area,”
From her first post, titled LIFT EVERY VOICE IN CHARTER SCHOOL DEBATE, Simama writes,
A so-called “reform” effort in public education is being led by those who believe that free market competition will provide better quality education and that the choices provided should be supported with taxpayer dollars. [Comment – public schools include traditional and charter schools – and both are supported with taxpayer dollars.]
Proponents argue that parents should be able to choose schools that fit the needs of their children. [Comment – this sounds eerily similar to why Simama’s current employer – the Paideia School – was formed.]
Their ultimate goal, and this was crystal clear in the last local election in Atlanta, is to convert all public schools into public and private charter schools. [Comment – I followed the candidate’s statements very closely and I sure did not hear this – in fact, far from it.]
Research shows on average charter schools have about the same success rates as traditional schools. [Comment – it is interesting that Simama points to “research” instead of the actual experience here in Atlanta – I guess it does not fit the narrative.]
Simama goes on to say,
This blog is not anti-charters per se; there are good and bad charters, just like there are good and bad traditional schools. This blog is more concerned about the privatization and corporatization of public education and whose voices get heard in the debate. [Emphasis added]
At this point, I am very confused – is the blog addressing educational reform from a national perspective or as it actually is practiced here and on the ground in Atlanta? My confusion arises as the ‘privatization and corporatization’ labels simply do not apply to APS. For that matter, I would really appreciate it if someone would define how ‘privatization and corporatization’ labels do apply to APS. Maybe Simama will address this in her next post.
She then returns to asking some good questions,
…Where is the Academy in this discussion? Where are the researchers with the real data that expose the affects [sic] of poverty on educational outcomes? Where are the teachers’ organizations that defend teachers from attacks of being uncaring, overpaid, and incapable of helping kids learn? Where are parents who send their kids to low performing schools, but pray that somehow, someway, someday their children will be successful?
But then reverts back to listing out national organizations that raise the ‘specter’ of meddling with the “education bureaucracy” that has served us so well – including the cheating scandal and our 51% graduation rate in Atlanta.
We are facing unparalleled corporate involvement in public education today and it may come at a price—the loss of public education. Even worse, this rich-guy, politician muckety-muck venture into public education means that educational policy is being driven and influenced by individuals and corporations that know little, if anything, about education.
I guess the conclusion alluded to is that we must once again place our confidence in the entrenched “education bureaucracy” that has served us so well.
But then, and it took a while, I think we get to the real point of the article,
Many of these new corporate “reformers” claim to care about what happens to students and care about the future of our communities, while at the same time they provide low wages, inadequate benefits, and undesirable work schedules for their workers… Teachers need professional development, smaller class sizes, better pay and more promising work conditions.
My sense is that the focus is really all about teachers as a special interest group – and not about improved educational outcomes. It is also interesting to note that her opponent in the race campaigned heavily on many of the exact items Simama says teachers need.
If that is the case, then why was the election result so lopsided against Simama? Voters clearly rejected the ‘national agenda’ scare tactics, rejected fuzzy ideology that was not specific to Atlanta and rejected generalized campaign promises without any specifics on improved educational outcomes.
As they say, read the whole thing here. And a link to her blog is included in the sidebar.
And Ms. Simama – welcome to the blogosphere – I look forward to reading your thoughts and – especially – commenting on them.
[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]