Dear AG Holder, We Want Your Children to Fail

Dear Attorney General Holder:

You called us out. Challenged us to show some backbone and speak openly about race.

Well, here's what I know from having taught in big city public high schools for the past 15 years: We want your children to fail. That's the truth.

Don't get me wrong. It's not simply a black/white thing. We want Latinos to fail, too. Ditto, poor immigrants who drop their children on our schoolhouse steps and expect they'll receive a quality education.

Destroying what once was a pretty good educational system wasn't easy. It took millions of Americans working in harmony for several decades to trash it.

Following court-ordered bussing in 1971 we did our white flight thing. By 1981 we created more than 1,000 magnet schools for those who couldn't afford to flee. These were essentially islands in which middle-class white kids who suddenly demonstrated a passion for singing opera or learning Japanese were cordoned-off in small, specialized academies inside otherwise, large integrated schools.

In 1991 the charter school movement was born. Charter schools sought to give "local control" to public schools. I taught for 12 years at Palisades Charter High School in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in California. "Local control" there meant an attempt to turn back the clock to the mid-60s when every kid in the graduating class photo looked like those teens that used to gather round when Ricky Nelson played his guitar on the "Ozzie and Harriet Show."

But with or without "local control," we've found creative ways to cripple public schools and to deprive your kids of a decent education. Time and again we voted against bond issues to repair or modernize your schools. Our legislatures perennially under funded your schools. We offered teachers such low pay that we tended to attract Mother Teresa types or people who've been booted out of their first profession. We packed 35 and 40 kids into English classes and science labs so that even the most talented teachers develop Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome after a few semesters. And we demanded that those traumatized teachers earn additional credentials, forcing them to attend night classes taught by Ph.D.s in Education who not only haven't taught in public schools for decades, they seem never even to have driven past them.

We encouraged experienced teachers to earn more money by fleeing the classroom and becoming administrators, opening classrooms to rookie teachers who rarely have the support they need to cope with the madness that's about to engulf them.

We disproportionately shared public education funds, siphoning more money to suburban schools than to city schools to the point that city school students often aren't even issued textbooks in their core subjects. We rarely demanded accountability from teachers, administrators, school boards, or even school districts. We drowned our students with standardized testing that stopped the education process dead in its tracks, but succeeded in making corporations that publish and score those tests very, very wealthy.

We made sure schools weren't given sufficient funds to deal with disciplinary problems so that our thugs had to commit felonies before they were transferred or expelled. The result is that the delinquents dictate what goes on in the classroom, burning up teachers' time and patience and destroying the possibility of real learning that your children crave.

And if this were not enough, we have created scores of new private schools, both secular and religious; resulting in a student brain drain which has lowered what constitutes excellence in our public school classrooms. In other words, we've watered it all down. So even if your kids graduate with impressive GPAs, they may have received only the equivalent of an eighth or ninth grade education.

Luckily President Obama's stimulus package and his budget plan shower billions of dollars into public education. And while we're waiting for that money to work its magic, my district, LA Unified, which is 88% non-white, will slash $800 million from its budget over the next 18 months.

Pink slips are going out next week to teachers, counselors, librarians, administrators, coaches and school psychologists. Our arts programs have already been decimated. And come September our public school classrooms will be bloated with students taught by overwhelmed teachers.

So you see Mr. Attorney General, most public school kids, and most of your children don't stand a chance. We've made sure of it. And that's the truth.