Two years ago the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) created the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools and were officially approved by the state to be a sponsor of charter schools. This effort was financed by two Innovation Grants from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The Innovation Grants were funded in part by the Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation.
This is yet another attempt to do what Pasi Sahlberg called, "trying to do the wrong thing, righter."
Like our AFT and NEA presidents (Weingarten and Van Roekel), many of our local leaders in Minneapolis believe it is possible to work with those who are trying to privatize our public schools, or in this case, to beat them at their own game. Both our current MFT President, Lynn Nordgren, and a former president, Louise Sundin, are behind this effort. In fact both of them are board members of the Guild, along with Sandra Peterson, a former President of the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers, former President of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers and former Co-President of Education Minnesota.
They claim we can "show the reformers how to run a school." While teachers should be an integral part of shared school leadership, the charter school system is a tool of the neo-liberal reformers. Even if the Guild creates a "great" charter school, it will only empower the corporate reformer agenda. You can't defeat the master, using the master's tools.
The Guild's Director is Brad Blue, a long-time educational entrepreneur, and a classic salesperson. He sees no contradiction or irony in having the Guild sponsor a talk by Pasi Sahlberg, an opponent of the corporate reforms. Mr. Blue has simultaneously worked as the Director of the Guild, while opening another charter school called Upper Mississippi Academy (UMA). His UMA charter school was launched with the help of Charter School Partners and possibly the Walton Foundation, as noted on the Charter School Partners' blog:
Charter School Partners has a goal of opening 20 more charter schools in Minneapolis in the next five years. Minneapolis is already one of the most charter-school-saturated cites in the country. One of the leaders of Charter School Partners is Katie Barrett Kramer of the local "reformer" dynasty - the Kramers. The CSP board includes Chris Stewart, a former Minneapolis School Board member and vocal defender of the corporate reform movement, and Daniel Sellers, former President of Teach for America - Twin Cities and current president of MinnCAN.Finally, since 2010, CSP has also assisted in the launch of eight other quality schools either through our Charter Start efforts or Walton Family Foundation support including Cornerstone Montessori (2010), Minneapolis College Prep (2011), Hennepin Elementary School (2012), Mastery School (2012), Adelante Prep (2012), Upper Mississippi Academy (2013), Prodeo Academy (2013), and Venture Academy (2013)).
This Saturday, the Minnesota Guild will hold an open house at the office of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. Charters are not real public schools, and the measures of success (standardized tests) use to determine which schools work "best" are destructive. In reality, the Guild is our Frankenstein's monster, and it will help to destroy the true system of public schools we, not only hold dear, but recognize as essential to a socially-just democracy.
It's time to gather the torches and pitchforks. This monster must be stopped!